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Heating and Cooling System Maintenance

Air conditioners, furnaces, and heat pumps help regulate the temperature in your home and make it more comfortable. To ensure that your heating and cooling systems remain effective and efficient, regular maintenance is needed. Preventative checkups may also prolong the life of your systems. Maintenance requirements vary depending on the type of system, so it is best to consult your owner s manual.

General suggested maintenance includes:

  • Inspecting air filters monthly during seasons of peak use and replacing or cleaning dirty filters.
  • Checking for disconnected or crushed ductwork. Disconnected ducts can result in heated/cooled air being distributed outside or in areas of the house where it is not needed. Crushed ducts restrict airflow and reduce system efficiency.
  • Sealing duct leaks and insulating ducts to reduce energy loss.
  • Clearing away weeds and debris around outside air-conditioning or heat pump units. Air should circulate freely around the unit.
  • Hiring a professional heating and air-conditioning technician to inspect your home's heating and cooling systems for proper functioning prior to the season of use (that is, air-conditioning should be inspected in the spring, and furnace should be checked in the fall).

Buying a New Heating and Cooling System

Choosing a new heating or cooling system can be daunting. However, by doing your homework and talking to licensed heating and cooling professionals, upgrading cooling and heating systems can make your home more comfortable and reduce energy costs.

Tips to remember when purchasing a new system:

  • If your heating or cooling system is 15 years or older, purchasing new equipment may be more energy-efficient and save money over the long run.
  • The type of system you choose will depend on the local climate, size of the home, the amount of home insulation, and the heating/cooling usage patterns.
  • Look for systems that carry the ENERGY STAR label.
  • Air-conditioning units are rated by their seasonal energy-efficiency ratio (SEER). The higher the rating the more efficient the unit. A unit is considered high efficiency when its SEER ratio is 13 or greater.
  • Furnaces are rated by annual fuel-utilization efficiency (AFUE). High-efficiency units have AFUE ratings above 90 percent.
  • If choosing an air-source heat pump, which combines cooling and heating, look for one with a SEER of 13 or greater and a heating season performance factor (HSPF) of 7 or greater.

For more information on maintaining or buying heating and cooling systems:

Missouri University Extension's Heating System Maintenance

U.S. Department of Energy's Consumer Guide to Heating and Cooling

Content updated on 11/7/2005

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