Best Way to Know Your HVAC System Is Struggling
Your HVAC system may have been humming along all season, keeping your home comfortable with no sign that it is on the verge of a breakdown. Sometimes, the only way to know that your system needs an HVAC repair is through regular maintenance by a professional HVAC technician. Without a doubt, regular maintenance through a service contract is the single best way to identify and resolve problems before they lead to an expensive HVAC repair.
Under a service contract with a reputable HVAC contractor, an HVAC technician will inspect your heating system in the fall and your air conditioning system in the spring, before the seasonal demands on it begin. The technician will thoroughly inspect and clean the components and replace worn parts. If more service is required, the technician will schedule a follow up with you.
Common Warning Signs
Although regular maintenance will avoid most problems that arise during the season, it will not avoid all of them. Breakdowns and unexpected mechanical failures do happen. Often, your HVAC will give you some indication that it needs professional service. The warning signs are often (but not always) obvious. Here are some of the most common signs that you need to call your HVAC contractor for an evaluation and service:
- Lack of cool air from the air conditioner, or lack of warm air from the heater. Suddenly, the AC is blowing warm air in the summertime. Or, in the winter, the heater is blowing cool air and not keeping the house warm. This is an obvious sign that something is wrong. Before calling the HVAC contractor, make sure the system is getting power – check the circuit breakers, the power switch, and pilot light (if your heater has a pilot light, it is probably more than 25 years old and should be replaced). If power is getting to the system but it is not coming on, or if it is coming on but not doing its job, call your HVAC technician. The problem could be a faulty thermostat, or it could be a more serious problem.
- No professional inspection in more than one year. Yearly inspection and routine maintenance by a professional is important to keeping HVAC repair bills low and ensuring your system is operating at optimal performance levels. If a technician has not looked at your HVAC system in over one year, it is time to call for maintenance. These systems need regular attention and failure to do so can lead to premature breaking and unnecessary strains on your system.
- Higher than usual utility bills. If you have noticed an increase in your energy bills without a comparable change in the outdoor temperature, do not ignore it. Higher bills are often a sign that your HVAC system is straining to keep up with the demands on it. It could need a relatively minor HVAC repair. If you ignore it, you could find yourself in need of a new system.
- Short-cycling. Short-cycling is when your heating systems goes on and off for short periods. It may be a sign that your heat exchanger is overheating and causing the system to shut down. Short cycling can be a sign that something is seriously wrong with your system. Call your HVAC contractor for service.
- Airflow is weak. If the air coming through your vents is poor, it can be a sign of trouble with the compressor. If you notice the problem in every room of your home, your compressor may be failing. If it is just in a few rooms, you may have a blockage in the ductwork. This needs a professional technician to diagnose and recommend the best solutions.
- Signs of moisture or leakage anywhere. Your HVAC system should not be leaking or creating moisture. If you see that, the problem could be a simple as a clogged condensate drain, or it could be a more serious issue such as leaking refrigerant. In either case, the issue should be addressed as soon as possible. A clogged condensate drain can lead to mold growth and more serious problems. Leaking refrigerant means one or more holes exist in the system components that need to be corrected immediately. Leaking refrigerant is also an indicator that the system is aging and needs to be replaced. Your HVAC technician can diagnose the problem for you.
- Unusual noises. If your system is making strange noises, you should turn it off and contact an experienced HVAC contractor for service. A squealing noise usually means a belt is slipping and needs to be replaced, or some of the components need to be lubricated. A grinding or metallic noise can mean the bearings are wearing out, or the system needs to be replaced.
- Unusual smells. Sharp, pungent odors emitting from your system may mean an electrical problem. Musty, organic odors are an indication of mold growing in the system, which is itself a symptom of excessive humidity or moisture pooling where it should not be. Your system should be professionally serviced to pinpoint the problem and make appropriate HVAC repairs.
- Age. A system that is over 15 years old that is experiencing these signs probably needs to be replaced. Call your HVAC contractor to schedule a replacement before the season begins. You don’t want to have an emergency breakdown mid-season. A new system adds value to your home, and a new energy-efficient heating system can save you money in the longer term, and in any event will provide a safer and healthier home environment.
Consult a Reputable HVAC Contractor
The warning signs described above should be evaluated by a reputable, professional HVAC repair technician. With regular service, you can reduce the chances that you will experience an emergency breakdown of your HVAC system just when you and your family need it the most. Contact an experienced HVAC contractor and schedule an evaluation before the season starts.