The HVAC system is a complex machine. It is also a dangerous one to meddle with without knowledge and training. Many technicians spend their time fixing DIY hacks that people have attempted, usually to disastrous results.
There are some simple tricks to help your AC run efficiently. These hacks can save you money on energy costs and prevent costly repairs.
1. Change the Filter
Air conditioning systems are huge consumers of electricity and can be dangerous to meddle with unless you’re an experienced professional. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn some useful HVAC hacks. These can keep your system running smoothly and help you save money on energy bills.
One of the most effective hacks you can use is to change your filter regularly. When you change the filter on your AC unit, it will allow more air to flow through the system and prevent any clogs or dust build-up. According to ENERGY STAR, you should check and change your filter every month during peak season. This can help you avoid costly AC repair bills in the future and maintain a high level of comfort throughout your home.
If you’re unsure how to change the filter on your AC unit, you can always ask an experienced technician for assistance. They will be able to show you where the filter is located and how to replace it. They can also recommend the best filters for your specific system and help you choose the right size.
Once you’ve removed the old filter, be sure to carefully insert the new one. There should be arrows on the filter that indicate the direction of airflow. When installing the filter, make sure that it points away from the return duct and toward the air handler mechanism.
After you’ve properly replaced the filter, make sure to close and latch the access panel or cabinet door and restore power to your HVAC system. Once the system is restored, you can start enjoying the benefits of a clean and efficient filter. You can also write a date on the edge of your new filter so that you can easily keep track of when it’s time to change it again. If you’re concerned about forgetting to change your filter, you can also sign up for a service that will automatically ship you a new one every month. This is a convenient and hassle-free way to ensure your air filter never gets too dirty or out of date.
2. Check the Drain Pan
If you notice standing water in your drain pan, you’ll want to check the air conditioner drain line. The drain line catches condensation from the evaporator coil in your indoor air handler and guides it to the drain pan. Over time, the drain line can get clogged with dirt and debris like hair, fur, dust, mold, algae and more. This can cause the pan to overflow, flooding the area and causing moisture damage. The best way to prevent this is by checking and cleaning your AC drain lines on a regular basis.
To check your drain line, first turn off the power to your air conditioning unit. Then, locate the drain pan under your indoor air handler. It’s usually connected to the evaporator coil by a PVC drain line. Pour a few cups of water into the pan and observe what happens. If the water immediately travels down into the drain line and out of your home, then your system is working well and there’s no clog present. If the water does not flow into the drain line, then there may be a clog somewhere in the system.
You can fix the clog yourself with a few simple steps. First, turn off the power to your AC and remove the air conditioning drain vent cap or unscrew it. Next, use a wet/dry vacuum or shop vac to suction the clog out of the drain line. You can also try flushing the line by pouring a cup of white distilled vinegar into the access point of the drain vent. The vinegar will kill bacteria and help to clear the clog.
If you don’t have a wet/dry vacuum, you can also try using a plumber’s snake to dislodge the clog. If the clog is still there, you might need to hire a professional to clear it out for you. For a long-term solution to clogged drain lines, you can add a PVC shut-off valve at the air handler or furnace side. Then, add a garden hose fitting to the top of the T and screw in a short 1/2″ threaded nipple. This will enable you to easily cut the drain line, connect a new nipple and cap the vent when not in use.
3. Check the Thermostat
The thermostat on your AC unit is one of the most important parts of your system. If it’s having issues, you could experience all sorts of problems in your home. Thankfully, most thermostat problems can be easily fixed by performing some basic maintenance and diagnostics.
If you click a button on your thermostat and the screen remains blank, that indicates an internal problem with the thermostat. This is most likely caused by a faulty sensor, and will need to be replaced. If you’re unsure what the problem is, a professional should be called to perform a diagnostic test.
Sometimes, a simple reset of the thermostat can fix the issue. This can be done by turning off the power to the thermostat and flipping the breaker switch to turn it back on. This is usually enough to restart your system, but if you find that you’re resetting the thermostat frequently, this may indicate an underlying problem that requires further investigation by a professional.
A bad thermostat can also cause a heater or air conditioner not to work at all. The thermostat uses wires to transmit electric signals to the heating and cooling systems, so if there is an issue with those wires, it can cut off communication between the thermostat and the air conditioning or furnace.
To check if your thermostat is the problem, have a friend stand next to the air conditioner or heater while you change the temperature on the thermostat. When you’re ready, ask your helper to turn the thermostat switch from “cool” to “heat.” If the system responds right away by turning on, then your problem is probably with your thermostat.
Another way to troubleshoot your thermostat is to remove the battery compartment cover and separate the wires that are connected to it. This can be done using a flathead screwdriver and tweezers. The wires only carry 24 volts, so they won’t deliver a dangerous shock if you accidentally touch them. Once the wires are separated, you can connect them to another thermostat to bypass the original thermostat and test whether it’s working correctly.
4. Check the Ductwork
Air duct leaks waste energy, drive up your heating and cooling costs, and contribute to poor indoor air quality. They also cause HVAC equipment to work harder than it should, accelerating normal wear and tear. While some duct leaks can be repaired using DIY techniques, it is always best to leave the job to an expert who will use permanent sealants to make sure your system doesn’t experience further problems.
Leaks can be detected by running a visual inspection of your ductwork, starting with the areas that are easily accessible. A common source of leaking is the joints, where two sections of duct meet. These are often poorly sealed and can develop cracks over time. You can also check the ductwork at its connection to your house, especially if it is in your attic or basement. Leaks at these connections are common, and you can feel escaping air by running your hand over the area.
Another sign of leaking ducts is a dust build-up in your living spaces, especially those near the vents. This dust is pushed out into open areas by the leaks, and may be a symptom of more serious issues. If you see a build-up of dust, it is best to get in touch with an HVAC company to have the ducts examined and possibly replaced.
Other signs of leaking ducts include hot and cold spots in the home. These occur in areas of the house that are harder to cool or warm than other rooms, which is a result of leaky ductwork. It is important to contact a professional to get the ducts checked and leaky areas sealed as soon as possible, as they could become quite serious over time.
To survey your ductwork, you’ll need to turn on the HVAC system and walk around the inside of your attic or basement to find any visible holes. If you are in the attic, you’ll want to be careful not to step on any ductwork or insulation, and you should wear a mask if you have one. You’ll also want to have a few basic tools, including a screwdriver, a flashlight and/or a digital camera, some duct tape (NOT regular tape), and mastic sealant that is specifically made for ductwork repair.