Winter can be hard on HVAC systems, especially those that have not been taken care of. Now that winter’s wrapping up, use this prime maintenance month to give your HVAC system some much-needed TLC, and keep your home energy-efficient the whole year round.

1. Get a Yearly Checkup

According to EnergyStar standards, HVAC systems perform much more efficiently when properly maintained. If it’s been a year or more since your HVAC system was serviced, make sure to call a licensed professional to perform yearly maintenance tasks. Make sure your contractor is following Energy Star’s HVAC maintenance checklist so your HVAC system will stay healthy in the long term.

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2. Do the Basics Yourself

Although it’s a good idea to call a contractor to check on your HVAC system, you can probably improve your HVAC’s efficiency with a few basic maintenance tasks that you can do yourself. Check refrigerant levels to make sure your air conditioner is working at top efficiency. If you have an outdoor unit, wipe off its fan blades and coils. Check your air filter, and change it if it’s clogged with dust or dander, if it’s damp, or if it’s damaged.

3. Monitor Your Thermostat

Your thermostat plays a key role in controlling HVAC performance. Programmable thermostats costs as little as $25, and save money in the long term by allowing you to lower the temperature at night or when the house is empty during the day. If you do not have a programmable thermostat, think about upgrading. The latest thermostats have user-friendly features like mobile controls and smart learning functions that allow you to monitor your thermostat even when you’re not at home.

4. Get a Home Energy Audit

Ductwork and insulation help keep air treated by your HVAC system circulating properly throughout your home–instead of, for example, pooling in your basement or attic. Cracks and gaps interfere with this process, allowing air to escape or keeping it from moving through the home. If your heating and cooling bills are high or your home isn’t as comfortable as you’d like it to be, consider getting a home energy audit. During a home energy audit, a contractor will carefully examine your ductwork, insulation and ventilation systems for problems such as leakage or inadequate circulation, and make recommendations about how you can get your HVAC system working optimally.

5. Upgrade Your System

HVAC units incorporate industry improvements every year. If your unit is 10 years old or older, consider upgrading to a new system. The price may be worth the boost in efficiency. Check Energy Star for a checklist of telltale signs that it’s time to replace your unit, and when looking for a new model, consider several different factors:

  • Efficiency ratings. Efficiency ratings, often indicated with a percentage on units like furnaces, show how much electricity is directly converted into heat. Today’s furnaces, especially with energy-efficient fuels, can reach over 90% efficiency without trouble. Don’t forget to check your state’s energy efficiency incentives for tax breaks and subsidies on new, efficient HVAC upgrades.
  • Energy Star certification. Energy Star certification is given to models that have notably energy efficient features. For easy energy-efficient shopping, choose an Energy Star certified product.
  • Two-stage heat pumps. Heat pumps are a great way to increase HVAC efficiency, but they struggle in areas with high temperature fluctuations and cold winters. Consider using a two-stage heat pump, which can switch between two different modes based on the temperature to help use energy more effectively.

Spring is the time to get your HVAC system maintained. Take the time to get your HVAC its yearly checkup, and you’ll enjoy a comfortable home and lower energy bills year-round!

When’s the last time your HVAC system had a checkup? Is it time for your system’s yearly maintenance?