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5 Tips to Help Your HVAC Unit Run at High Efficiency Year-Round

HVAC systems are often the unsung heroes of daily lives. They work quietly in the background, letting us go about our day staying warm in the winter and cool in the summer. A little regular maintenance can help your HVAC unit run at a high efficiency year-round. Seasonal planning can make it possible to keep your system performing efficiently through its years of usage and even extend its life span.

Regular maintenance will not just increase efficiency, but also prevent issues from growing into large problems or emergencies. The certified professionals at Entek are ready to help you keep your system in top shape throughout the Portland area. In this article, we share five tips to get you started working from the outside unit to the inside unit.


1. Keep the Outside Clean and Clear

One of the easiest ways to help your HVAC unit run at high efficiency year-round is to keep it clean and clear. Easy seasonal outside cleanup can prevent leaves and other debris from clogging the fins or disrupting the airflow around the compressor. Start by checking nearby trees, shrubs, or other vegetation. You may need to trim back branches that are encroaching. Keep two to three feet around the unit clear to allow the best airflow.

Next, look at the hoses and vents and ensure they are clear of obstructions. It’s possible for animals to become a nuisance and damage the hoses or attachments. You’ll also want to ensure that any vents that release air from the house to outdoors are clear and undamaged.

2. Check Up on the Fins and Coils

While you’re outside, you can inspect the fins and coils of the compressor. After the evaporator coil inside your home captures heat, it’s transferred outside through the compressor unit outside your home. Most evaporator and condenser coils run through the thin metal fins that you can see on the outside of the unit. These little fins are critical to ensuring your unit is transferring air in and out of your house efficiently. Look for cobwebs or dust that has built up around the fins. This can be vacuumed with the soft bristle attachment of your vacuum or shop vac.

If the build-up is significant, you may want to clean the fins using a garden hose with a gentle flow of water or use a strong spray-on cleaner from a hardware store. Lightly spray the fins, working from above the fins with at least a 45-degree angle to help the dirt flow down and away from the unit.

You’ll also want to check for corrosion or bent fins. Bent fins can be gently moved back to straight with a butter or putty knife. Take a few minutes to remove the top and clear out any leaves or debris caught up inside.

3. Check the Filters and Drains

When you look at the system inside your home, an easy place to start is with filters. Clogged and dirty filters will block the airflow and could reduce your HVAC performance by as much as 15 percent. If you have severe allergies, own pets, or live in an area with significant dust or smoke, you may want to check your filter more often. Generally, set a schedule to check your filter on a monthly or bimonthly basis, and you could find yourself saving energy and money over time.

Next, check the drain channel for clogs. A blocked drain channel could prevent your unit from reducing humidity properly. You can do a quick clean of the drain by pouring one cup of 50 percent bleach and 50 percent water solution through the drain to clean out possible mold or algae growth.

4. Help the System Help You

Your HVAC unit is working hard to keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer, but to keep it running at a high-efficiency level you’ll want to help it out a little. Consider your thermostat. It should be located in an area of your home that’s out of direct sunlight to prevent false readings.

This might be the time to upgrade your thermostat to a programmable or smart thermostat, which would allow you to set different temps for when you’re home, away for long periods, or sleeping. Controlling the usage to match your needs instead of a blanket setting can save energy and lower your bills. Some units will also make it possible to program by zone, increasing the efficiency of your system by changing the settings to provide cooling and heating to the rooms where it’s needed.

Take a quick look around your rooms and make sure the registers are clear of furniture or other obstructions. Keeping them open will ensure proper airflow through your house and help to distribute warmed and cooled air.

5. Work with a Professional for Regular Maintenance

In the items above, we’ve noted several areas that you can take control of to help your HVAC unit run at a high-efficiency level. These things will put you in a good place, but you’ll want to consider regular maintenance and cleaning with a professional, certified technician as well. A certified technician can take a deeper dive than is safe for a homeowner.

A routine maintenance plan can include checking refrigerant levels, electrical terminals, motor fan, blowers, and blades; inspecting for signs of mold; replacing worn pulleys or belts; and checking flues and heating elements. This kind of routine check can identify the leaks, corrosion, and dirt and debris that prevent your system from optimal performance.

The actual list of maintenance items can vary by type of system but keeping up with the basics means a technician is more likely to spot possible trouble areas before they grow into a major problem. Working with Entek can keep your HVAC system in tip-top shape to improve air quality and maximize efficiency. Our service department will keep track of the maintenance and send reminders to streamline the process.

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