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Troubleshooting HVAC

In troubleshooting an HVAC unit, a professional will surely be the best avenue in ensuring your warranty on these expensive necessities in today's homes. However, a general troubleshooting checklist can help save hundreds of dollars in house calls.

Has air flow lessened?

It is possible the problem lies within your air filters. The microbiological breakthroughs seem very appealing when you are in the store. Of course we don't want minuscule bacteria particles floating around within the air we breathe. What does this cost you though in HVAC performance?

Several HVAC repair technicians have advised us that this is actually a win for the consumer in that they recommend going cheap. The traditional filters ranging in price from 25 cents to a dollar are the recommended type for most homes. Now if you live in the middle of Kansas during tornado season in a windowless home, you might want the high filtering alternative to remove the waves of dust. For the average suburban home, the cheapies are the way to go.

The lower cost filters still do their job in removing the majority of particles in the air flow, however, maximum air flow is achieved adding to the overall efficiency of your system.

One contractor recommended a fail-proof system of using the lower cost filters. He suggested to buy an entire box, remove the side panel of the box and simply label the filters the months of the year.

When you walk by the box and you see the current month, change the filter. Quickly and easily you are running with clean filters and achieving increased efficiency in your HVAC system for less than $5 per year.

Do you have leaks? If so, where?

If your leaks are in the ceiling from an attic unit leaking downward, you may have issues. A leak in here would indicate an overworked system or simply a system that has a line breach. An overworked system can do one of two things, overwork the compressor, many time leading to ice buildup around the compressor or a noticeable depletion in the amount of freon.

Inspect the unit in question and see if the compressor unit (where the coils are) has any excess condensation or actual ice on the surface of the coils or the lines leading out of the central cooling unit. Believe it or not, even a compressor located adjacent to a gas burning furnace can keep a block of us around its coils. Now that's cold!

Sometimes the outbound lines can be rewrapped with insulation, after the ice has been taken care of by shutting off the unit as long as necessary (do not chip ice away - you will damage your unit), but many times the problem resurfaces.

Either way, it may be time to call out the professional HVAC contractor on this one. Whether it be to inspect the freezing or to check and most likely fill the freon, it is best to use a pro. Depleted freon is usually determined because the air coming from the unit is luke warm at best. You can attempt to recharge the system yourself, but this is not recommended and you could cause more damage than you want to incur.

If your leaks are by the base unit usually located within a basement, your drains could be clogged. Put it this way, if you look inside the drain and it isn't clogged, time to call the pro. So let's do this simple check to save us an unnecessary house call.

Remove the drain valve if possible. In some cases the original installers do not provide a way to look inside the drain. If they have not, and you end up calling out a pro, ask them to install a T into your drain so that next time you can do the repair yourself. You are usually looking at PVC piping for the drain, so this addition is a few dollars plus time.

If your drain does appear to be clogged (believe me you can tell) it can cause the draining condensation, which is normal, to backup and leak from a joint. During consistent cooling this can cause quite a puddle or even water damage to the surrounding areas.

To unclog the drain you need a pliable, thin thing-a-ma-jig, yes a thing-a-ma-jig. Your main purpose is to break through the buildup. Once you have broken through, you are to the point of basic drain repair. Remember you are pouring water into a main drain for your home. It won't be in your drinking water, but it will make its way into our environment, so just be aware of excess if nothing else. This is stated because there are numerous green remedies, but for general descriptive purpose - draino - ok we said it.

One contractor suggested a regular maintenance of twice per year to open the valve and pour a quarter cup of bleach or draino into the drain to be proactive in keeping it free from buildup.

The HVAC unit in your home is one of the most costly, both in actual expense to purchase and for its electricity or gas consumption. Therefore, its proactive maintenance ensures a healthy and more efficient system. If it is time for repairs, we hope we have provided a few basic items to be more informed or to even save a house call, aka money.

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