Surviving a whole year in Santa Rosa without an HVAC system is nearly impossible. While it remains one of the most beautiful and desirable cities in the Bay Area, even Santa Rosa’s most fervent defenders will admit that the weather is a little extreme. With temperatures easily reaching the 90s in the summer and dipping well below freezing in the winter, all the layers and oscillating fans in the world won’t be enough to keep you and your family comfortable year-round. Luckily, an efficient and well-maintained HVAC system will be more than capable of handling the job for you.
An air conditioner or furnace is certainly an investment, typically costing a fair amount of money. For that reason, keeping up with maintenance and repairs is one of the most important things you can do. If you take good care of your HVAC system, each unit can easily last for 15 or 20 years without having to be replaced. That means a single installation can keep your house comfortable for decades before you need to invest in a new one. However, if you don’t stay on top of your maintenance schedule, you could find yourself needing to pick up a new air conditioner, heat pump, or furnace after only a handful of years.
In this blog post, we’ll talk a little bit about why you should service your HVAC system regularly, how to tell when you might need to repair it, and a few other things to help you get the most out of your HVAC units.
Is Your Santa Rosa Home Too Hot or Cold?
Santa Rosa is a difficult area, weather-wise, because it gets both very hot and very cold at different points during the year. In an average year, the city will experience about 29 days with temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and about 30 days with temperatures below freezing – 32 degrees Fahrenheit. That means that many people in Santa Rosa choose to install two-way HVAC systems that can keep them cool in the summer and warm in the winter using the same ductwork. Traditionally, this would be accomplished by installing two different units: an air conditioner for the summer months, and a furnace for the winter. These two units can be hooked up to the same thermostat and the same ducts, so you don’t have to worry too much about switching back and forth as the months pass and the seasons change.
Alternatively, many residents are choosing to install heat pumps instead. A heat pump works similarly to an air conditioner, which uses refrigerant and two metal coils to transfer heat away from the air and outside your house as exhaust. Unlike a standard air conditioner, however, a heat pump can switch the flow of refrigerant, making the air inside your house warmer instead of cooler. That means you only need a single unit to keep you cool for the entire year – all you have to do is flip a switch when the weather changes and reverse the flow of refrigerant.
8 Reasons to Service Your HVAC Every Year
The single most important thing you can do to keep your HVAC system running smoothly is to keep up with your regular maintenance appointments. We recommend a tune-up at least once a year, before the busy season for each unit. That means getting your air conditioner serviced in the early spring when the weather starts to warm up and having your furnace serviced in the fall before the weather turns too cold. If you have a heat pump, you should probably have it serviced twice a year since you’ll be using it through both the hot and cold seasons. Here are a few reasons why it’s important to keep up with your regular maintenance appointments:
One of the first signs that something may be wrong with your HVAC system is a spike in power usage. When something is wrong, the unit typically has to work harder to make up for the loss in efficiency, requiring more electricity. Making your regular maintenance appointments is the best way to make sure your system is running as smoothly as possible.
Prevent Repair Bills
Like with any other machine, consistent HVAC maintenance is the best way to avoid large repair bills later on down the road. It’s important to catch small problems before they become big ones, and regular service appointments are a great opportunity to make sure nothing is wrong with the unit. You can think of it like going to the dentist. You might not have any cavities right now, but you still have to go in and have your teeth cleaned and checked regularly or they could start to form. Your HVAC system works much the same way.
Whether you’re using an air conditioner, a heat pump, or any other kind of HVAC unit, you probably had to put down a big chunk of change to purchase it in the first place. Nobody wants to spend that much over again after just a couple of years, so it’s important to hang on to your manufacturer’s warranty for as long as possible – just in case. Many warranties require you to have the unit serviced regularly, so if something does go wrong and you haven’t had the unit inspected by a technician recently, they could end up invalidating the warranty.
Although the main function of any HVAC system is to control the temperature inside your house, they also end up playing a large role in determining the air quality. HVAC units don’t actually draw any air in from outside; instead, they just recycle the same air from inside your home, cooling or heating it over and over to maintain a temperature. This actually helps to filter particles out from your air, since it has to pass through an air filter every time it cycles through the unit. If the air isn’t being filtered properly, you could see a sudden drop in quality as you run the system.
HVAC systems are extremely safe and you shouldn’t really be worried or anxious about potential dangers to you or your family. However, there are a few ways in which a malfunctioning HVAC unit can create a risk to anyone in your home. If you have a fuel-burning furnace, then the unit is creating carbon monoxide while it’s running. There are several safeguards to prevent that CO from leaking, but it’s still possible for them to fail. Because carbon monoxide is so deadly, it’s a good idea to let a technician check for any failures regularly.
Air conditioners and furnaces tend to use a lot of electricity, making them some of the less environmentally-friendly appliances out there. A lot of work has been put into making them much more energy-efficient, but that only works if the unit is running properly. If any parts are starting to wear down or aren’t working properly, you could see a spike in electricity usage. That means the system is requiring more resources and contributing to more carbon being released into the atmosphere. It might be a minor difference, but every little bit counts at this point.
As we alluded to in the first section of this post, service frequency has an enormous effect on the overall lifespan of any given HVAC unit. A yearly tune-up can mean the difference between an air conditioner that runs for 8 years and one that keeps running for 20 or more. As long as you take good care of your HVAC system and don’t feel the need to regularly purchase upgrades, you should really only need to replace each unit a handful of times throughout your life.
The last item on the list, but perhaps the most important. We can talk about energy efficiency and total lifespan but ultimately it all comes down to one thing: if your HVAC system isn’t working correctly, you’ll feel it. You might experience inconsistent heating, with hot or cold spots scattered throughout the house. You also might experience a drop in efficacy if your system has been damaged to the extent that it can no longer treat the air fast enough to maintain a comfortable temperature. A well-maintained HVAC unit is more powerful and more effective than one that’s been allowed to wear itself down, end of story.
5 Warning Signs That Your HVAC Needs Repair
Sometimes more than regular maintenance appointments are needed to keep something from breaking down inside your HVAC unit. For the most part, the internal parts are easy enough to either repair or replace, but it helps to make sure you catch the problem as early as possible. Here are a few signs that can let you know your HVAC system needs to be repaired:
Power Usage Spike
We already mentioned this above, but a sudden spike in your monthly power bill could be a sign that your HVAC system needs repairs. When something starts to break inside a unit, it becomes less efficient, which means the system needs to work harder to achieve the same results. That requires more power, leading to a spike.
Most of us try to tune out the sound of our air conditioner or furnace when it’s running, but you should try listening now and again, especially if you hear unfamiliar sounds. Scraping, grinding, or rattling sounds could indicate that something is broken inside the unit. If you hear something strange coming from your HVAC system, you should contact a technician as soon as possible to check it out.
Normally, the air coming from your vents shouldn’t smell like much of anything. A musty or moldy smell could mean that you have mold growing somewhere in the ducts or in the unit itself and should be addressed. Burning electronics also give off a distinctive smell that can be detected through the vents. If you have a fuel-burning furnace, you shouldn’t normally be able to detect an actual burning smell unless it’s leaking oil. Finally, if your furnace runs on natural gas, a rotten egg smell could indicate a gas leak and you should leave the house immediately and stay out until the gas has been turned off.
Air conditioners and heat pumps have to lower the temperature inside the unit as they run, but there shouldn’t be any ice forming on the coils. If you do notice water dripping from your air conditioner, there’s a good chance that ice has formed and is starting to melt. We recommend turning the unit off and waiting for the ice to melt completely instead of trying to chip it away, which can damage the delicate coils. Fluid dripping from the unit could also indicate a refrigerant leak or a clog in the drain line.
When an HVAC unit starts to break or wear down, that comes with a loss of efficiency. At first, the system can make up for that by working the unit harder and running it for longer, but eventually, it won’t be able to keep up. When that happens, you might notice cold spots or that the temperature is just generally not what it’s supposed to be. If you feel like your HVAC system isn’t heating or cooling the air as much as it should be, you should contact a technician immediately.
Hire The Best HVAC Contractor in Santa Rosa
If you’ve noticed any of the aforementioned problems with your HVAC system or you haven’t found someone to handle your yearly maintenance appointments yet, feel free to get in touch with Valley Comfort Heating & Air today. We serve Napa, Sonoma, and Marin Counties, and we’re more than happy to help you out with any HVAC-related issues you might have, no matter how big or how small.