Between packing, moving, and meeting the neighbors, new homeowners have a lot on their plate. It can be hard enough to remember where all the light switches are, let alone how the HVAC system works. What should you do?

What exactly is an HVAC system?

HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. It is pronounced by saying each letter, but sometimes contractors also pronounce it as "H-vac."

What are the main components of an HVAC system?

Your HVAC system includes your furnace, air conditioner, heat pump, thermostats, air filtration system, and all associated ductwork and vents. It is one of your home's main mechanical systems, and it is very important to the overall functionality of your new home. 

Do you need to get your HVAC system serviced regularly?

You need to schedule HVAC services before turning your system on each season. In other words, you should have your furnace serviced each fall before the colder, winter weather rolls in, and you should schedule your air conditioner for service in the late spring before you need to turn it on for the summer months.

An HVAC service technician will perform a basic tune-up on your unit, much like a tune-up on a car. They will inspect the exterior of your furnace or AC unit to look for any cracks or broken elements. They will also examine the blower, heat exchanger, and other components to see if they are broken or blocked with debris. Finally, they will tighten, lubricate, and replace any loose or damaged parts or filters. 

Do you need to get your ductwork cleaned?

You can have your ducts professionally cleaned. While this may not be necessary every year, it is important for homeowners with allergies to remove any built-up dust in the system. Ductwork can also be an area where construction dust and debris settle. It is recommended to have your ducts cleaned after any interior construction projects.

How often do you need to change your furnace filter?

Experts recommend changing your furnace filter at least every 90 days, if not sooner. Luckily, this is an easy project as the old filter just pops out and the new one pops in without the use of any tools. If this seems like too much waste, you can purchase a reusable furnace filter that simply needs to be rinsed off in the sink every few weeks. 

How do you clean your air conditioner's outside unit?

While your service technician will inspect the outside unit when you have it serviced, you will need to take care of it throughout the year. This is an easy task, however.

After you mow your lawn each week, use a weed trimmer to cut down any tall grasses and spray the outside of the unit with a hose to remove any dead leaves, twigs, cobwebs, or other debris. Keeping the unit clean will help with airflow and prolong its useful life. 

How long will your HVAC last?

How long your system will last depends on many factors including what part of the country you live in, how often you run your system, and what type of system you have. Air conditioners can be expected to last 12 to 15 years, while furnaces can last up to 20 years. Your home's original ductwork, however, should last much longer. Your HVAC technician can run a duct blower test to determine its viability if you are unsure of its age. 

How can you learn more about your HVAC system?

In addition to the above information, you can read the owner's manual for both your furnace and air conditioner. The previous homeowner probably left you a copy, and while it is a dry read, there is plenty of valuable information in there for you.

Learning the ins and outs of your HVAC system is an important part of homeownership. Reading the manual, scheduling regular service appointments, and talking to your HVAC service provider will all help you understand your system better.