As a homeowner, how many times have you let something go only to kick yourself later when the problem got worse? Most homeowners are guilty of this at least once in a while. However, it’s truly better to avoid hindsight when learning from these mistakes. Taking a proactive approach as much as you can helps eliminate issues and costs down the road. This especially holds true when it comes to your HVAC system. And given the potentially high repair cost, homeowners are well-advised to keep up with DIY maintenance on their HVAC systems as much as possible.

Filter upkeep

Cleaning or changing the air filter is probably the single most important, and simplest, DIY maintenance a homeowner can do for their system. Change your filter on a regular basis (monthly is a good rule of thumb) to be on the safe side. A dirty air filter renders an HVAC system significantly less efficient, which costs you money, and causes wear and tear on component parts, which may set off a chain reaction that can take down the entire unit. When it’s blisteringly hot outside, a dirty filter could cause a coil to freeze and render your AC ineffective. If replacing the filter doesn’t do the trick, you’ll need to contact an HVAC professional for assistance.

Maintain airflow

A truly effective HVAC system works best when there’s free and uninhibited airflow through the vents and registers. For that reason, you need to clean those important components on a regular basis with a strong vacuum cleaner. But don’t just vacuum – using a wet rag, wipe down the registers and around the edges of your vents. Consider this an important measure if you or someone in your home suffers from respiratory problems, because a clogged system will circulate air with allergens and other pollutants that can compromise your health.

Debris-free around the AC

Air flow is also important in your outdoor AC unit. If your yard tends to accumulate a lot of debris, be careful to check around your unit often to make sure there’s no build-up of leaves, grass clippings, sticks and other lawn debris. Maintain a 3-foot wide strip all the way around the unit using a lawn mower or weed whacker. If necessary, use a hose to clear out any build-up that could hamper the efficiency of your unit and shorten its lifespan. In the fall, it may be necessary to clean leaves and other tree waste from the inside of your AC to keep a nice even flow of air going. 


Turning off the humidifier’s water supply is a great way to save wear and tear on your furnace during the summer. As summer gives way to fall and cooler weather, replace the humidifier pad, set humidity at about 40 percent, and turn the water supply to the furnace back on. If it’s been a while since you’ve used your humidifier or want to have someone take a look at it before you turn it on, look for appliance experts in your area (and check ratings and reviews beforehand) to help you get your humidifier back in great working condition.

Turn on the fans

Shutting down the humidifier isn’t the only way to indirectly save wear and tear. On days when the temperature isn’t unbearably hot, turn on your ceiling and floor fans and turn off the A/C for a while. You’ll allow fresh air to circulate throughout the house while allowing the HVAC system a break. 

When it comes to a system as valuable as your HVAC unit, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. Simple home maintenance can keep your home comfortable in the hottest part of summer and in the deepest winter freeze. Be careful about neglecting your unit – it could cost you a lot of money.

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By Lisa Walker.

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