Summer nights are filled with the sounds of outdoor parties, baseball games and something a little less pleasant: air conditioners. Even if they might drown out nature or the screams of adoring fans, these machines are vital for ensuring our comfort during the summer. In some regions of the U.S., they are even essential for our safety as temperatures reach dangerous levels.

This makes it important to check on your HVAC system on a regular basis to keep things flowing smoothly. It only takes an hour or two at most, but could save you hundreds in repairs and a lot of discomfort if the air conditioning fails at an inopportune time.

The National Association of Certified Home Inspectors recommended getting an HVAC inspection twice per year. Ideally, this special home inspection should take place just before the weather starts getting warm, as well as once winter begins to set in. Routine HVAC maintenance involves checking and tightening connections, lubricating moving parts and generally ensuring everything is in good working order. 

Cooling systems can be a bit more complicated to service. According to NACHI, a technician will check the condenser coil and the evaporator coil and make certain these are functioning properly. The evaporator works to remove heat from interior air, while a condenser collects and releases that hot air into the outdoors. 

The fan will also get checked during this inspection. It's also important to get a refill on the refrigerant fluid used in the air conditioning unit.

DIY HVAC tasks

The NACHI suggested homeowners do some simple maintenance tasks themselves to make sure the system is functioning correctly all year. 

  • Filters: Homeowners should change their HVAC filter once every three months if they use a forced-air system. These HVAC systems use the same network of vents for heating and cooling. If the home has two separate systems, the filters can be changed once the right season begins. It easy to change filters on typical HVAC systems - just follow the instructions. Alternatively, a contractor or inspector may be able to do this for you.
  • Check airflow: To ensure everything is working, homeowners should check each vent in the home while the air conditioning is running. It's also imperative to move any furniture or other large objects that might be blocking the flow of air from these vents, as this can eat into your cooling budget.
  • Outdoor system: Most air conditioning systems use an outdoor unit to exchange hot air. It's important that this unit be clean and free of any dirt and debris, especially on the top where air will flow upward.

Keep in mind that the typical lifespan of an HVAC system is eight to 15 years. After 15 years, it may make sense to install a new system and enjoy the benefits of an energy-efficient heating and cooling device. Talk to a professional home inspector to make sure your home is ready for this upgrade.