Have you started hearing strange noises, such as whirring, bumping or clanging, coming from your HVAC system? Or, have you noticed that your home’s temperature is no longer as comfortable as it once was? You might shiver all through the colder months, even though the thermostat says the temperature is 70 degrees. In the warmer months, it might seem like some rooms never seem to get cool enough.
Your HVAC system is designed to have a relatively long life, but there might be times when your system has issues and needs some attention. Knowing what to keep an eye out for will help you determine if your HVAC is in need of repair or if it is time to replace it.
Why HVAC System Maintenance Matters
When is the last time you gave your HVAC system much thought? Many homeowners do not think too much about their home’s heating and cooling systems until there is something wrong, such as hearing weird noises from the equipment or noticing that the inside temperature is too high or too low.
Setting aside some time for troubleshooting your HVAC system and giving it a little attention each year can help to keep it in good working order for as long as possible, minimizing the need for extensive repairs or even replacement.
Regular HVAC maintenance includes an annual tune-up and inspection of your system. During the tune-up, the NATE-certified technician who is performing the work will let you know if they notice any current issues with the equipment or potential problems that could develop later. They will also let you know what the recommended course of action is and how much a particular repair might cost.
Spotting potential problems and concerns when they are small allows you to take quick action. Fixing a problem before it has a chance to develop into a major concern can mean that you save money. It also reduces the risk of the system breaking down, leaving you without heat or air conditioning for any length of time.
Regular HVAC maintenance also helps your system to perform better and improves the safety of your home. Modern HVAC systems have air filters that keep dust and debris from traveling through the ductwork and into your home. The filters can become full and clogged after months of use, meaning they no longer are able to properly filter out dust and other particles from the air. Clogged air filters can also make your system work harder, increasing the amount of wear and tear on it. Regular maintenance involves replacing the air filters to improve the air quality in your home and to ease the amount of strain on your HVAC system.
Maintaining your HVAC system can also help you save money on energy bills. A system that is under a significant amount of strain or that is dirty will need to work harder to keep your home comfortable. The harder your air conditioner and furnace work, the more fuel and energy they will need to use. This can also lead to higher electricity and fuel costs, too.
6 Signs Your HVAC System Requires Repair
Even with annual tune-ups and maintenance, there is still a chance your HVAC system will need repair at some point in its life. HVAC troubleshooting involves knowing the signs to look for and what to do if your system starts exhibiting any of them. These are some of the signs that your heating and cooling equipment needs to be repaired.
1. Low-Efficiency Levels
Furnaces and air conditioners are rated based on their overall energy efficiency. The annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating measures the efficiency of a furnace or boiler that uses oil or gas as fuel. The energy-efficiency of air conditioners is measured using the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). An oil-burning furnace with an AFUE rating above 85 is considered to be energy-efficient, while a central air conditioner with a SEER rating over 12 is energy-efficient.
Over time, the efficiency of heating and cooling equipment can drop. For example, if the air filter becomes clogged or full, it can reduce the efficiency of your air conditioner. Cleaning or replacing the filter can make your air conditioner up to 15% more efficient.
You can often tell if the efficiency of your system has been affected, as it will usually need to work harder or run more often. If your system seems to be kicking on more frequently or running for longer when it does turn on, one of SMO Energy’s expert technicians can come out to inspect your system and let you know what repairs might be needed.
2. Uneven Temperatures
Do you notice that some areas of your home are hotter or colder than others? If so, your HVAC system might be contributing to the problem. When heating and cooling equipment is in need of upkeep or repair, it often cannot heat or cool the home evenly. If you feel that the system is not able to fully distribute heated or cooled air through your home, it might be due to a weak motor or fan that needs adjustment and cleaning.
3. Excessive Dust
If there seems to be excess dust throughout your home or if the dust in the air is aggravating your own or your family members’ allergies, your HVAC system might be at fault — at least in part. The air filter in the system might be full, which means it cannot filter contaminants as well. If that is the case, replacing the filter can help you and your family breathe more easily.
In some cases, too much dust in the home is a result of ducts that are not well sealed. Dust and debris can enter the ducts through small openings where the ducts connect or through holes or cracks in the ducts themselves.
4. Humidity Control Issues
In addition to the temperature, your comfort at home is also influenced by the humidity level. When the air in your home is too dry, you are likely to notice that your skin is dry, too. A low humidity level can also dry out your nasal passages, making you more susceptible to discomfort as well as catching a cold or another illness.
Too much humidity in the home is also an issue. When there is a lot of moisture in the air, mold can thrive, triggering allergic reactions and asthma in sensitive individuals. High humidity levels can also lead to rot, affecting the structure and stability of your home. When it is too humid indoors, it can feel warmer as well. Your thermostat might claim that it is a comfortable 70 or 72 degrees, but the high humidity can make it feel like it is 78 or 80 degrees.
A few signs will let you know if the humidity in your home is too high or too low. If you notice condensation forming on the windows inside your home, that is usually a sign that humidity is too high. If you walk across a room, touch a doorknob and get shocked, that is typically a sign that humidity is too low.
If your HVAC system is the right size for your home, it should be able to help control the humidity levels, ensuring your house is neither too dry nor too damp. If the system is not the right size for your house, however, it might struggle to keep humidity within an acceptable range. Wear and tear on your HVAC system can also affect its ability to control the moisture level in your house. If you notice that your home is too dry in the winter or too humid in the summer, schedule an appointment to have a technician take a look and diagnose the issue.
5. Loud Noises
During the course of normal operation, your HVAC system is going to make some noise. You might hear a gentle blowing sound as the air travels through the ducts and out of the registers or a soft hum as the burner kicks on. While some noises are common and normal, others are a sign that something is up and that your system most likely needs attention. Sounds to keep an ear out for include banging, clunking and whistling. If your system starts screeching, that is also usually a sign that you should call a technician and have them take a look at your equipment.
6. High Energy Bills
A change in your energy bills can be a sign that your heating and cooling systems may be in need of repair. If you are using your heater or air conditioner as you normally do and have not significantly increased or decreased your thermostat, your energy use should be relatively constant. However, if your heater or air conditioner needs to work harder to keep your home at the desired temperature, it is likely to use more energy to do so. You might notice that you need to refill your heating oil or propane tank more often, increasing your out-of-pocket costs. In the case of an air conditioner that is struggling, you might see a jump in your electric bills.
If you are paying more than you think you should be for heating and cooling, have a technician check out your system. If the heating and cooling system is not in need of repair, it might be time to replace it with a new, more energy-efficient model to help you get your energy costs under control.
When to Replace Your Air Conditioner or Heating System
Although repairing your HVAC system when it is having problems, such as making noises, not heating and cooling effectively or not turning on, can be the most appropriate option in certain cases, there might also come a time when replacing your system is the best call. Some signs that your air conditioner and heating system needs to be replaced include:
- The repair bills are mounting: In some cases, the cost of the repair might be nearly the same as the cost of investing in a new system. It might also be the case that the condition of your system requires it to have frequent repairs. In the long run, it can be more cost-effective to install a new system rather than to continue to repair the older one.
- The system is old: The age of your HVAC system can also influence whether it is better to replace or repair it. When your equipment is 10 to 15 years old, it usually makes financial sense to replace it. Although you will pay upfront for the new system, you are likely to save money over time as new air conditioners and furnaces are considerably more energy-efficient than older models.
- Your energy bills are very high: While there are a variety of factors that influence how much you pay to heat or cool your home, one factor that is within your control is the condition of your HVAC system. If your system is not as efficient as it could be, you are most likely paying more for fuel or electricity than you would like to be. Replacing inefficient heating and cooling equipment with a high-efficiency model can help to lower your monthly energy costs.
SMO Energy Can Repair or Replace Your HVAC System
It is a good idea to schedule an appointment with one of the expert technicians from SMO Energy as soon as you notice a problem with your heating and cooling equipment. The sooner you take action, the sooner you will have a solution to your problem, whether it is to repair or replace your system. If you are not sure if your equipment needs repair or replacement, you can schedule an in-home energy consultation with one of our technicians. During the free consultation, our technicians will listen to your needs and concerns, examine your home and equipment and make recommendations that work with your needs and budget. If you live in Southern Maryland and want to solve your heating and cooling problems, contact SMO Energy today.