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Why an Annual “Clean & Check” Isn’t Enough for Your Heating & Air Conditioning System

The HVAC system in your house is a big, complicated piece of equipment — in some ways more complex than your car. Your system needs more than just a “clean & check” to operate efficiently and effectively. Just like a car, your system requires quality maintenance performed by qualified professionals on a regular basis. Without proper maintenance, your HVAC will not:

  • Provide your home with a comfortable, healthy environment.
  • Operate efficiently.
  • Survive for its entire 15 to 20-year life cycle.

A Clean & Check Just Isn’t Enough

Many plumbing and HVAC contractors offer low-cost service visits called “clean & check” or “seasonal tune-ups” that they recommend once or twice a year to keep your system running its best. But at the typical $50 or $75 price of a clean & check, the contractor will only be vacuuming dust out of the furnace and indoor coil, cleaning out the leaves and debris from the outside air conditioner unit, giving the main components a cursory visual inspection, running the system for a few minutes from the thermostat and changing the filter.

A clean & check is just not the thorough maintenance your system needs. This is especially true of the newer high-efficiency HVAC systems with their intricate venting and advanced electronic components.

So what should be included in a quality maintenance regimen?

Technicians Who Know What They’re Doing

The technician your contractor sends to your house should be licensed in your state to provide HVAC services and certified by one of the industry’s accreditation bodies. The best HVAC companies – like Church Plumbing & Heating – are certified by ACCA and employ NATE-certified technicians. Check your contractor’s website for this information.

A Customer Interview

A maintenance visit isn’t complete if the technician doesn’t first talk to you about the issues you may be experiencing with your system.

  • Are you noticing hot or cold spots in the house?
  • Are there rooms that were comfortable in the past but now don’t seem to heat or cool sufficiently?
  • Is the current air quality in the house acceptable (no excess dust or other allergens)?
  • Have any trees been removed from around the house so that a side of the house now gets more sun?
  • Have window treatments been changed so that more glass is either covered or exposed?
  • Have any other renovations occurred at the house?
  • Have utility costs been consistent or are they varying to a large degree?

Questions like these will help focus the technician’s attention on the right issues.

Familiarity With Building Codes and Manufacturer Recommendations

A good technician will make sure that your system complies with the current building codes in your area and, just as important, the maintenance and performance standards that your system’s manufacturer expects from the equipment. Even if your contractor isn’t a dealer for the brand of equipment installed in your house, the technician should do his homework and familiarize himself with the manufacturer’s specs and recommendations for your system. (To assist with this part of the inspection, it’s a good idea to keep the owner’s manuals that came with your system in a room near the furnace.)

A Thorough Inspection of the Whole System

With a typical clean & check, the contractor will focus on just the furnace and air conditioner units. A quality maintenance visit will include a detailed inspection of every part of the system:

  • Air distribution system (including ducts, vents, grills)
  • Thermostats and other controls
  • Furnace
  • Evaporator coil (indoor portion of the air conditioner)
  • Condenser unit (outdoor portion of the air conditioner)
  • Fan coil and blower
  • Humidifiers and air cleaners (including filters and media for each)

All of these components should be examined for dust, dirt and debris (and cleaned if that can be accomplished during the service visit), checked for wear and tear (including premature wear), examined or tested for compliance with manufacturer specs, and, if necessary, repaired or replaced (again, to the extent those tasks can be accomplished during the service visit). Any components that require testing should be checked for compliance with the manufacturer’s performance standards.

System Test and Walk Through

Once the maintenance work is complete, the technician should conduct a test of the HVAC system appropriate to the time of year (cooling mode if during warm months, heating mode during cold months) to ensure that it promptly cools or heats to the desired temperature. If the customer flagged certain rooms of the house as problematic, the technician should confirm whether those rooms are comfortable.

Review and Discussion of Any Corrective Actions

Any cleaning, repair or replacement that will require more than a nominal charge (or a second service call) should be discussed with you before work is done (including the likely cost of any necessary work). If certain repairs or replacements can be deferred, the technician should explain the pros and cons of waiting.

Your technician should also discuss with you any potential equipment additions or upgrades that may make sense to improve the comfort or air quality in the house (particularly if you have an older system). For example, the addition of an advanced air cleaning system can be a cost effective way to significantly improve your home’s air quality.

A quality maintenance inspection of your HVAC system twice each year pays major dividends. Not only will your home be more comfortable than a basic “clean & check” or seasonal tune-up, but your technician will discover and repair problems before they become a major (and expensive) repair. And just like your car, good maintenance will extend the life of your system.

Call us at (574) 295-6844 to schedule a maintenance visit for your HVAC system, or make a service request online. Our certified technicians can service all major brands of furnaces, air conditioners, air cleaners, humidifiers and thermostats.