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In cities like Raleigh, your HVAC system works harder than your automobile, and it needs scheduled service just as much. Here are seven maintenance tips to keep indoor comfort levels high and HVAC repair costs low:

1. Pay Attention

You pay attention to your vehicle by monitoring its performance and by being alert for odd noises. Do the same with your HVAC. Rattling, thumping, grinding and buzzing mean there’s a problem somewhere in the system.

The same is true for performance issues like spotty heating or cooling, weak air flow, thermostat problems or puddles around your indoor unit. If you notice irregularities, call your HVAC contractor for troubleshooting help. The sooner you address the issue, the less damage it can do and the less it will cost to fix it.

2. Schedule Annual Maintenance

Air conditioners should be tuned up every spring and heaters should be tuned up every fall. Regular maintenance can prevent up to 95 percent of all HVAC repairs. It will also keep your system operating at peak capacity for maximum indoor comfort, and it can cut energy costs by as much as 40 percent. Preventive maintenance extends the lifespan of your equipment too.

3. Replace Your Air Filters

Filters should be replaced every 30 to 90 days. Check your filters every month for dirt and clogs. Some systems need filter changes every month; others can go up to six months without a change. The more people who live in your household and the more pets you have, the more often your filters will need to be changed. Operating your HVAC with a dirty or clogged filter can quickly and severely damage your equipment.

4. Clean The Vents

If you have ducted HVAC, vacuum the vents often to keep dust and dirt from building up there and obstructing air flow. Keep furniture and other household items away from vents, and check the airflow periodically to make sure that it’s not weak. If you notice weak airflow, have an HVAC service technician check it out ASAP.

5. Consider a Maintenance Plan

An HVAC preventive maintenance plan can ensure that you never miss out on the benefits of annual equipment servicing. Many HVAC companies waive emergency service and overtime fees for customers with maintenance agreements, and a service plan may entitle you to discounts on HVAC repair costs as well.

6. Clean the Outside Unit

It’s easy to forget about your HVAC system’s outside unit, but it needs monthly maintenance too. Check to ensure that the unit is on a flat, level surface and remove any leaves, twigs or debris from the area. Cut back plants and shrubs by at least three feet. Disconnect the power, remove the access panel and clear away any debris with a wet/dry vacuum. Wipe down the inside and outside of the unit to get rid of grit, and finish with a gentle spray from a garden hose to wash off any lingering dirt or grunge.

7. Schedule a Ductwork Inspection

If you have ductwork, have it inspected every several years for blockages. Over time, ducts can accumulate a thick layer of grunge that impedes air flow, overworks your equipment and weakens the system. Ducts can also harbor microbes, dander, dust, pests and dust mites or develop leaks through which treated air can escape.

Duct cleaning can improve indoor air quality and keep your HVAC healthy by assisting with the free-flow of conditioned air. Duct sealing can save you money by preventing treated air from leaking out.

Besides the age of your unit, most HVAC repairs are a direct result of poor maintenance. To learn how you can save up to 15 percent on all repair costs with an HVAC service agreement, visit Cape Fear Air Conditioning, Heating, & Electrical Company, Inc., or call us to schedule a tune-up.