Repairing Residential HVAC Units: The Do's and Dont's
by The Cooling Company, on Sep 20, 2019 9:00:25 AM
Your home’s HVAC system works hard to keep you cool during the sweltering Las Vegas summers and warm on those chilly desert winter nights. While residential HVAC systems are designed to last a long time, with so much use, it’s bound to break down and require repairs at some point.
When it does, make sure you hire a reputable HVAC contractor to do the repair work. A qualified contractor may cost a little more but they will repair your HVAC system properly and won’t cut corners. Here are some of the do’s and don’t of residential HVAC repairs.
DIY Tasks You Can Do Yourself
If you are an avid DIYer, you’re probably keen to do certain jobs yourself and save the money you would spend hiring a contractor. The good news is, there are a few maintenance and repair tasks you can perform yourself.
Change The Air Filter
The importance of changing the air filter is something we often preach on this blog, but it bears repeating. A clogged air filter leads to a surprising number of HVAC problems. It reduces AC efficiency, can cause the evaporator coils to freeze over, the blower motor to overheat, and contributes to poor indoor air quality. As a result, it places the entire unit under stress and can lead to system failure. If you’re experiencing any of these problems, check the air filter. If it is covered in a thick layer of grey dust, it’s time to change it.
Replacing the air filter is a quick and easy job:
- Shut off the AC.
- The air filter is usually located in the air handler. Remove the cover and take out the filter.
- Insert the new one and replace the cover. Make sure it’s the right size filter. If you or your family suffer from allergies, consider buying a filter with a MERV rating higher than 11.
Clean The Condensate Drain Pan
The HVAC condensate drain line is responsible for removing moisture from the AC. When the condensate line becomes clogged with a build-up of algae, mold, or dirt, the system cannot drain moisture and water collects and stagnates in the drain pan. Here’s how to clean the condensate drain line yourself:
- Turn off the HVAC system at the thermostat and circuit breaker.
- Find the condensate pan — usually located below the indoor air handler.
- You can use a handheld wet/dry vacuum to suck up the water or mop it up with a rag.
- Clean the pan with soapy water.
- Next, go outside to the condensate drain outlet which may be located near the foundation. Again, you can use a vacuum cleaner to suck out any clog in the pipeline.
- The last step is to find the access point on the drain line which is T-shaped with a PVC cover. Remove the cover and check for dirt or debris. Pour in white vinegar, diluted hydrogen peroxide, or hot water with dishwashing soap to flush the drain line.
If you don’t feel comfortable flushing the drain line or can’t find the drain outlet, call an HVAC technician.
Dangerous Repairs You Should Never Attempt Yourself
HVAC systems are complex pieces of equipment. They require the right knowledge, training, and tools for safe installation and repairs. Trying to do repairs yourself is dangerous and can cause bigger problems to the HVAC system and also void the manufacturer’s warranty. There are certain HVAC repairs that you should NEVER attempt to do yourself. Doing the following DIY repairs in an attempt to save money can have dire consequences.
Any Electrical Work
Your HVAC unit connects to your home’s electrical wiring. Only a trained HVAC technician or an electrician should work on the wiring and electrical components of an HVAC system. For your own safety, do not touch loose connections, frayed wires, and avoid handling parts such as the fan and blower motors, start and run capacitors, or doing any work on an electric furnace.
The high voltage current that courses through the electrical system is dangerous and can result in an electric shock that can cause serious injury or death. An ill-equipped homeowner tampering with electrical work risks not only injury or death, but improper work can lead to an electrical fire. Bear in mind that should your house sustain serious fire damage or burn down completely, you may not be able to claim on your homeowner's insurance.
Fixing the Furnace
If you have a gas furnace, it’s best to let the pros handle any maintenance and repair work. Gas is a highly flammable substance and emits deadly carbon monoxide fumes. Carbon monoxide gas is an invisible odorless gas and highly poisonous. Unless you have a carbon monoxide detector installed in your home, you won’t notice it. Any repair work done incorrectly can lead to a gas leak that can be fatal. Don’t risk it!
Should escaping gas come into contact with an open flame, it can spark a fire or result in an explosion. If you do escape unharmed, chances are your home will burn to the ground within minutes.
Electric and oil furnaces are a safer heating option, but they also come with hazards. Faulty wiring on an electric furnace can spark a fire. Oil furnaces are safe provided you maintain it regularly. However, if you notice black smoke creeping out of the sides of the furnace door, it could mean the furnace is not burning fuel properly. Do not open the furnace door as the pressure build-up inside can cause the door to violently blow open and injure you or lead to an explosion. If the smoke is heavy, call the fire department.
Never refill refrigerant yourself. Your air conditioner’s refrigerant gas is a highly toxic chemical and dangerous to work with if you don’t know what you’re doing. It can cause skin and eye irritation and inhaling refrigerant gas can cause dizziness, nausea, and respiratory problems. It’s also illegal to handle refrigerant without a license or to let it leak into the air. That’s why this job requires a professional who knows how to refill refrigerant gas safely. An HVAC technician also knows the correct levels of refrigerant gas required for the specific brand and size of the air conditioner.
What The HVAC Technician Should Do When Conducting Repairs
When the technician arrives, he or she may ask questions to obtain more information to help him or her to diagnose the problem before starting work. The HVAC technician should always conduct themselves in a friendly and professional manner. They should do the following on a repair call.
Explain The Scope of The Job
A non-communicative technician can be frustrating to a homeowner. A good technician will discuss the problem with you and explain the steps required to fix it before starting the work. They understand that the homeowner needs to be informed, not only of the scope of the job but also the cost. If they need to order replacement parts, they should schedule a convenient time to return to complete the job.
Work Quickly, Efficiently, and Neatly
Having repairs done in your home is always disruptive. A professional HVAC company understands that and will strive to work efficiently and complete the job quickly. At The Cooling Company, our professional HVAC technicians perform their duties quickly, with the least amount of disruption possible and without leaving a mess behind.
Follow The Manufacturer’s Specifications
Every HVAC manufacturer has a specific set of guidelines when it comes to installing, maintaining, and repairing their unit. If you’re using a licensed HVAC contractor, you’ll have the assurance that a trained technician will do all these according to the manufacturer's specifications and general HVAC industry best practices.
Most manufacturers recommend a specific maintenance schedule and are strict about presenting proof of maintenance in order to claim on the warranty. If regular maintenance hasn’t been done, it will void the extended warranty. Some manufacturers even go so far as to cancel the standard warranty. Your HVAC contractor should explain this to you and suggest implementing a biannual maintenance plan if you’re not already signed up to one.
Do a Quick Visual Inspection
While this is a repair and not maintenance visit, it’s a good idea for the technician to do a quick visual inspection and check safety controls. Taking an overall glance at parts such as the condenser unit, fan, blower motor, furnace, evaporator coils, electrical wiring, and thermostat can reveal any other problems that may be lurking. If you have any concerns, raise this with the technician while he or she is there. It can save you the extra expense of paying for another service call should something go wrong after they have left.
Replace Parts That Are Failing
When doing repairs, if the HVAC technician notices any other parts that are showing signs of wear and tear, they should replace them or order the part if they don’t have one in stock. It’s just a matter of time before a worn part will fail. In the meantime, it may lower the efficiency of the HVAC system or cause damage to other parts.
Run a System Check
Once the technician has finished repairing the HVAC unit, he or she should start up the unit to check that it is running properly and listen for any strange noises. They should make sure the thermostat is functioning properly and maintaining an accurate temperature. To wrap up, the technician should walk you through the work that was done and answer any questions you have.
Regular HVAC Maintenance Can Prevent Major HVAC Repairs
Given how hard your heating and cooling system works, HVAC repairs are unavoidable but it can be minimized. Keeping your hand on certain things like changing the air filter, cleaning air vents, tidying up around the outdoor unit, and scheduling professional HVAC maintenance goes a long way to keeping the unit healthy. It can also prevent more serious damage later on. Plus, you’ll enjoy the added benefit of saving money on costly repairs and prolong the lifespan of the unit.
We recommend scheduling HVAC maintenance at least twice a year, ideally before the change of seasons. An AC tune-up before summer can avoid an untimely breakdown during the heat of summer when you need your air conditioner most! A furnace check can help spot any potentially hazardous situation like a gas leak or electrical fault.
Who To Call For HVAC Repairs in Las Vegas
HVAC repairs often happen unexpectedly but are best dealt with quickly to avoid bigger problems. The Cooling Company repairs residential HVAC systems across the Las Vegas metropolitan area including North Las Vegas, Henderson, Paradise, and Summerlin. We’re a licensed Las Vegas HVAC contractor and comply with all mandatory city codes and manufacturer specifications. For all your HVAC needs, call us at 702-567-0707.