ACHRNEWS

An Ounce of Prevention Can Be Worth $1 Million

October 5, 2009
Dale Green

We probably all heard it a million times growing up, the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When it comes to your customer’s heating and cooling system, preventive maintenance can make a lasting difference in a home’s energy management. An ounce of prevention not only increases the life of the system, improves energy efficiency, and reduces pollutants, but it also saves homeowners money. Maintaining an HVAC system is important for your customer’s comfort and peace of mind.

I was intrigued by a recent article in the Sacramento Bee newspaper by Jim Downing, when I read of the return on investment the state of California achieved for an ounce, or maybe several pounds, of prevention when it came to its highways. California spent an average of $60,000 in 2007 doing preventive maintenance on one lane of highway a mile long, according to Caltrans’ latest “State of the Pavement” report. While that may sound like a lot of money, by contrast rehabilitation work on the same amount of pavement costs an average of $1.1 million.

Just like in California when it comes to highways, preventive maintenance of the HVAC systems in our customers’ homes is truly a good investment. As ambassadors for our industry, it’s incumbent upon each and every contractor to encourage homeowners to perform preventive maintenance on their heating and cooling systems. HVAC system maintenance isn’t expensive when you compare it to what a customer may spend if their system degrades or completely fails.

When it comes to selling preventive maintenance programs or packages, it’s important to remind customers of the following benefits:

• Regular preventive maintenance is the best way to ensure trouble-free operation and peak performance.

• It also keeps a customer’s system running at its optimal efficiency levels, which keeps energy usage, and their energy bills, in check.

• But just as important, preventive system maintenance gives your customers peace of mind.

The following preventive maintenance checklist is provided as a method for keeping your customers’ HVAC systems in great working order and their homes in constant comfort.

WHEN TO SCHEDULE MAINTENANCE

• If the system heats and cools the home: Perform maintenance in the spring and fall.

• Cooling only: Perform maintenance at least once a year, before the cooling season.

• Heating only: Perform maintenance at least once a year, before the heating season.

OUTDOOR UNITS

Service technicians should be expected to:

• Inspect unit for proper refrigerant level and adjust if necessary.

• Clean dirt, leaves, and debris from inside cabinet.

• Inspect base pan for restricted drain openings. Remove obstructions as necessary.

• Inspect coil and cabinet. Clean as needed.

• Inspect fan motor and fan blades for wear and damage - on older models lubricate as needed.

• Inspect control box, associated controls/accessories, wiring, and connections. Controls may include contactors, relays, circuit boards, capacitors, sump heat, and other accessories. All control box and electrical parts should be checked for wear or damage.

• Inspect compressor and associated tubing for damage.

INDOOR UNITS

• Inspect and clean blower assembly (includes blower housing, blower wheel, and motor).

• On older models, lubricate motor and inspect and replace fan belt if needed.

• Check combustion blower housing for lint and debris and clean as necessary.

• Inspect evaporator coil, drain pan, and condensate drain lines. Clean as needed.

• Inspect for gas leaks in gas furnaces.

• Inspect burner assembly. Clean and adjust as needed.

• Inspect ignition system and safety controls. Clean and adjust as needed.

• Inspect heat exchanger or heating elements.

• Inspect flue system. Check for proper attachment to the furnace, any dislocated sections, and for signs of corrosion. Replace if necessary.

• Inspect control box, associated controls, wiring, and connections.

• Clean or replace air filters.

• Inspect conditioned airflow system (ductwork). Check for leaks.

WHILE THE SYSTEM IS OPERATING

• Monitor system-starting characteristics and capabilities.

• Listen for abnormal noise.

• Search for source of unusual odors.

• Monitor air conditioning and heat pump systems for correct refrigerant charge.

• Measure outdoor dry bulb temperature.

• Measure indoor dry and wet bulb temperature.

• Measure high and low side system pressures.

• Monitor gas furnace for correct line and manifold gas pressure. Make adjustments as needed.

• Measure temperature rise and adjust airflow as needed.

• Check the vent system for proper operation.

• Monitor system for correct line and load volts/amps.

• Monitor system operation per manufacturer’s specifications.

• Provide system operation report and recommend repairs or replacements as necessary.

We all know HVAC preventive maintenance makes sound financial sense. Many consumers do not know this, however. At Trane, we believe there is opportunity to provide consumers considered and practical advice regarding preventive maintenance actions that will also position you, the dealer, as the first and only call when future HVAC issues arise. Particularly in today’s economy, homeowners are looking to us for practical advice on how best to manage and invest their energy and home improvement dollars. I once heard a person comment that doing a kitchen remodel project when your roof is leaking is like getting a face-lift when you need heart bypass surgery. We need to provide words of wisdom and excellent service when it comes to the HVAC ounce of prevention.

Publication date: 10/05/2009