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How to Keep Your Investment Property’s HVAC System Operating Smoothly

As a property manager or owner, you want your rental property to run smoothly and cost-effectively, but facility costs and other operating expenses can quickly add up. Heating and cooling your building is often one of the largest expenses. According to the latest Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, space heating and air conditioning account for 32 percent of the total energy consumption in apartments, homes and other residential buildings.

An inefficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system can result in even greater energy consumption and higher energy expenses for your investment property. If your HVAC unit requires frequent repairs or experiences a breakdown, that can also be a big hit to your bottom line — as well as resulting in unhappy tenants.

Luckily, property owners can take steps to ensure their HVAC system operates smoothly all year long. Preventative maintenance, proper cleaning and HVAC system inspections can increase the efficiency and extend the lifespan of your property's HVAC system. Read on for more HVAC tips to keep your heating and cooling systems in top operating condition.

Tips for Keeping Your HVAC System Running Smoothly

If you want to keep your commercial HVAC system running in its best condition all year long, follow these HVAC tips for winter, spring, summer and fall.

1. Perform Preventative Maintenance

Preventative maintenance is essential for keeping your rental property’s HVAC system in good operating condition. Taking steps now to clean, repair and maintain your HVAC system can save you time and money in the long–run by improving energy efficiency, avoiding more costly repairs and increasing the lifespan of your HVAC equipment. Regular preventative maintenance also improves the air quality of your building to create a healthy living environment and improve tenant satisfaction.

HVAC maintenance should be performed at least twice each year — once in the spring and once in the fall. Some smaller maintenance tasks may need to be addressed on a monthly or bimonthly basis, such as cleaning your HVAC units and changing the air filters. The ideal preventative maintenance plan for your investment property may vary slightly based on your specific HVAC system, but the checklist below can provide a general guide for maintaining your HVAC unit throughout the year:

  • Inspect the furnace and heat exchanger: Look for any cracks in the heat exchanger and listen for any unusual noises. Check for any drips or puddles around your furnace and boiler to ensure there are no potentially toxic leaks.
  • Check the drain lines and drip pan: Ensure your HVAC system’s drainage lines are emptying properly and there are no blockages. If condensation and moisture become trapped inside your HVAC unit, this can cause mold growth and may damage your unit.
  • Inspect and clean the coil and coil cabinet: Removing dust and dirt from the evaporator coil, condenser coil and coil cabinet improves the efficiency of your HVAC unit.
  • Check and clean blower assembly: Clean your blower assembly to make sure your HVAC unit is receiving sufficient air flow.
  • Inspect and lubricate fan motor and blades: Fans inside your HVAC unit control the flow of air through your rental property. Ensure fan motors and blades are running smoothly and are properly lubricated.
  • Lubricate belts and replace worn belts: Belts inside your HVAC unit must also be lubricated to reduce wear and ensure proper operation. Any belts that appear worn should be replaced before they break and cause more extensive issues.
  • Measure refrigerant level and recharge: A refrigerant leak can cause your cooling system to run less efficiently or be unable to cool your building. As part of your regular maintenance, check refrigerant levels and perform a refrigerant charge if necessary.
  • Clean and inspect burner assembly: Your water heater must receive sufficient air flow to work properly. A dirty or clogged burner assembly can lead to sooty performance, lower efficiency or even a toxic carbon monoxide leak. Remove and clean the burner assembly to ensure the best performance.
  • Check the heater combustion system: Most heaters ignite using a pilot flame that burns continuously and produces light blue colored flames in the combustion chamber when the heater is operating properly. Use the viewport at the bottom of the heater to check the color of the flames. If the flames are yellow or orange instead of blue, your heater may have combustion issues.
  • Inspect flue system for wear: Check for any leaks in your flue system and clean the flue system to improve your HVAC unit’s efficiency.
  • Clean or replace air filters: Air filters should be cleaned regularly to improve unit efficiency and ensure good air quality in your building. Dirty or clogged filters should be replaced with new filters of the correct size and grade.
  • Clean and clear the duct system: Dirty or dusty air ducts can lead to lower air quality in your rental property. Any leaks in the duct system can cause air to escape unused, leading to lower efficiency and higher heating and cooling costs.

By neglecting to perform essential preventative HVAC maintenance tasks, many building owners pay too much for inefficient heating and cooling and face expensive HVAC repairs or replacements. But with effective preventative maintenance, your HVAC system can run smoothly and efficiently for years without needing any major repairs.

2. Calibrate Thermostats

One of the most straightforward ways to reduce energy consumption and costs in your investment property is to calibrate your thermostats to the right temperature for the season. When thermostats are not adjusted throughout the year, your HVAC system may run more often than necessary, leading to higher energy bills. If the temperature in your rental property is too hot or too cold, this can also cause tenant complaints. When your thermostats are set to an appropriate temperature, your HVAC system will run more efficiently, and your tenants will be comfortable and content.

To calibrate your thermostats, adjust the thermostat temperature settings throughout your building at the start of the heating season and cooling season. Pay attention to changes in the weather to adjust your thermostats at the optimal time as the seasons shift. Adjusting the temperature setting twice a year is often sufficient, but you may also choose to make smaller thermostat adjustments throughout the year so your HVAC unit can run less frequently. When units in your building are vacant, set the temperature lower in the winter and higher in the summer for additional savings.

Installing programmable thermostats is often the simplest way to ensure your thermostats are calibrated correctly. Programmable thermostats offer easy control over the temperature throughout your building and can provide excellent energy cost savings. Property managers may also choose to use an automated system that can be preprogrammed to adjust the building temperature in the fall and spring. If using an automated system, re–evaluate the heating and cooling schedule every few years to make sure it still fits your needs.

As part of your HVAC maintenance, verify that your thermostats are working correctly and replace any faulty thermostats. Another essential step to improve the temperature control throughout your investment property is to check the seals on heating and cooling ducts. When HVAC ducts are not properly sealed, they can leak a lot of air as well as potentially suck dust and dirt into your HVAC system. Sealing ducts with foil tape, mastic or another duct sealant can provide cleaner air supply and eliminate uneven heating and cooling spots in your building.

3. Regularly Change Air Filters

Your HVAC system air filters also have an impact on the efficiency and smooth operation of your HVAC system. Dirty air filters reduce the airflow through your HVAC system, causing it to consume more energy to keep your building warm or cool. Dirty air filters can lead to poor indoor air quality if dust and dirt are released through the HVAC system.

Clogged air filters can also result in more serious problems with the operation of your HVAC system. Restricted air flow can cause stress to the air handler and lead to motor malfunction. Reduced airflow over the evaporator coils can cause them to freeze, and low air flow through the heat exchanger can cause it to overheat and shut down the system. These problems can all require costly repairs or lead to an even more expensive system breakdown.

Dirty air filters are one of the most common causes of HVAC system problems, but by regularly cleaning and replacing your air filters, you can prevent an expensive repair. Cleaning and changing your HVAC air filters can also significantly boost the energy efficiency of your investment property. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, replacing or cleaning your air filters regularly can reduce air conditioner energy consumption by up to 15 percent.

HVAC air filters should be inspected about once a month or at least once every other month to make sure they are not too dirty or clogged with debris. To check your HVAC air filters, carefully remove the filters and hold them up to a bright light source like the sun. If you cannot see the light through the filter, it is time to replace it.

In general, HVAC air filters will need to be changed about every two to three months. However, in environments with more dust, dirt, pollen or other airborne particles, air filters may need to be changed more frequently, about monthly or every few weeks. After you have inspected your filters a few times, you should be able to determine the best intervals for changing the air filters in your building.

When replacing your HVAC air filters, make sure to select filters that are the correct size and grade for your HVAC unit. Filters that are too small may allow dust and dirt to enter your HVAC system which can cause damage to internal components or release debris into the indoor air. Different grades of air filters are also available that are designed to remove varying sizes of particles. The grade of an air filter also impacts how efficient your heating and cooling systems are. If you are unsure which air filters are best for your HVAC system, contact an HVAC maintenance service.

4. Clean the Unit and the Area Around It

From leaves in the fall to snow in winter to pollen in the spring, your HVAC unit is exposed to a lot of rough weather throughout the year. If your unit is not kept clear and cleaned, these natural elements can lead to poor performance, reduced efficiency and a shorter HVAC system lifespan. Vegetation that obstructs airflow to your HVAC unit can also disrupt the operation of your cooling and heating systems.

Your outdoor HVAC units are not the only ones subject to dirt, dust and debris, however. Indoor HVAC units also require regular cleaning to ensure proper airflow and best operation. Use these HVAC tips for summer, winter, spring and fall to keep your unit clean all year long:

  • Trim vegetation: Clip any trees, bushes and other vegetation that grows around your outdoor HVAC units to ensure proper air flow.
  • Cut the grass: Trim the grass around your HVAC units and ensure grass clippings are not sucked into the vents or fans.
  • Clear mud and dirt: Mud and dirt can build up around outdoor HVAC units. Clear any dirt that obstructs airflow to your unit.
  • Clear away snow: After a snowfall, clear any snow and ice from the top of your HVAC units and shovel snow away from the sides. Pay particular attention to vents and fans to ensure air can flow freely through your heating system.
  • Clean unit and vents: Clean the exterior of your outdoor and indoor HVAC units to remove any dirt or dust that builds up over time. Make sure fans and vents are cleared of debris and cleaned thoroughly to provide clean indoor air and efficient operation.

Cleaning your HVAC units should be incorporated as part of your regular maintenance schedule for your rental property. By keeping your unit and the surrounding area clear of debris and clean, you can help your HVAC system operate smoothly in any weather.

5. Get Your HVAC System Inspected

In addition to regular maintenance and cleaning, your HVAC unit should be inspected by a professional HVAC technician at least twice each year. A licensed technician can identify and diagnose any potential problems with your HVAC system as well as offer advice for improving your system efficiency and reducing your heating and cooling costs. Your HVAC maintenance provider can also make small repairs and tune–ups to keep your HVAC system operating at its very best.

During a standard inspection of your HVAC system, your HVAC technician will perform a variety of maintenance tasks, including:

  • Inspecting the furnace, combustion system and burner assembly
  • Inspecting evaporator and condenser coils
  • Checking and recharging refrigerant
  • Checking and clearing drainage lines
  • Adjusting HVAC controls for improved operation
  • Inspecting electrical components
  • Lubricating all moving parts
  • Inspecting the flue system and vents
  • Testing the safety controls

Your HVAC provider will inspect your cooling system components in the spring and your heating system in the fall. However, in addition to these biannual inspections, property managers should also schedule an inspection any time their HVAC system does not seem to be operating properly — uneven heat or cooling distribution, unusual noises, weird smells and leaks near HVAC units are all signs that an inspection may be necessary. By being proactive about HVAC maintenance, you can keep your investment property’s heating and cooling systems running at top performance.

Commercial HVAC Maintenance With Oasis Heating, A/C & Refrigeration

Proper HVAC maintenance at your investment property can boost the efficiency of your HVAC system to lower your energy expenses and improve tenant satisfaction. A well–maintained HVAC system will also last longer and require fewer repairs so you can focus on more critical tasks. If you have questions about creating the right maintenance program for your rental property’s HVAC system, the expert team at Oasis Heating, A/C & Refrigeration is happy to help.

With over 20 years of experience in commercial HVAC installation and maintenance, Oasis Heating, A/C & Refrigeration is a trusted HVAC supplier in the Northern Virginia region. We offer competitive pricing and customized HVAC maintenance plans so you can choose exactly the services that your investment property needs to stay cool all summer and warm all winter. Contact Oasis Heating, A/C & Refrigeration to learn more about our HVAC maintenance and repair services.