March 19, 2020
Contact: Francis Dietz
Arlington, Va. — The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) today offers tips for suddenly homebound consumers to keep their vital heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and water heating equipment operating at peak performance during this unprecedented health crisis.
Keeping HVAC and water heating equipment operating properly can help homeowners cope with new demands with respect to health and safety. A properly operating air conditioner, furnace, boiler, and water heater can keep occupants safe and comfortable while providing hot water for cleaning, consistent air circulation, and fresh, outside air.
Consumers can take several steps to ensure peak performance:
For Water Heaters:
- With more small children confined to the house or apartment and the urgent need for regular hand washing, consumers should check and adjust the thermostat on the unit to no more than 120 degrees. Doing so will not only reduce the risk of scalding but will also save money on energy bills.
- Homebound consumers can take the opportunity to ensure peak performance by draining part of the tank to remove sediment. To do so, turn off the cold water supply, hook up a garden hose to the drain valve, then run into a bucket or utility sink until the water is clear. If the water remains cloudy, briefly open the water supply valve to stir up the remaining sediment and then drain part of the tank again. This also makes the unit operate more quietly.
For Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps:
- Clear away leaves, grass, weeds, plants, and other debris that are blocking airflow through the outdoor condensing unit, which is the large metal box in your yard next to your home. Anything that collects on the unit's fins will block airflow and reduce its efficiency. Wet leaves that have accumulated over the winter is a common issue, and later in the spring, grass clippings thrown by the lawn mower are particularly common offenders.
- Check to make sure air vents inside your home are not obstructed by furniture. Air in your home needs to circulate easily through the vents. Your air conditioner works less when air can circulate freely, and occupants benefit from regular air circulation.
- Check the air filter and change it if it's dirty, or according to the manufacturer's recommendation, to keep dust from collecting on the evaporator coil fins. Keeping your filter clean can cut energy consumption 5- to 15-percent. Turn off the power to the air handler before pulling the filter out so that the fan doesn't come on and blow dust throughout the home. Be sure to position the new filter according to the manufacturer's instructions, and use a Sharpie to record the date on which it was installed so that you can easily tell if it needs replacing.
For Furnaces and Boilers:
- If you have a natural gas, propane, or oil furnace or boiler, take this opportunity to test your carbon monoxide detector to ensure it is working properly. Even though in most places, the temperatures are rising, nights can still be still chilly and this equipment can still be necessary.
- Most other maintenance on these types of equipment should be performed by professionals.
In fact, being in self-quarantine can be an excellent time to schedule a spring maintenance visit by a well-trained technician, who can find and fix problems in the system. Look for a technician certified by North American Technician Excellence (NATE). You can find NATE-certified technicians online at www.natex.org.
Finally, AHRI recommends that homeowners establish a service agreement with a reputable contractor that will take care of regular spring and fall maintenance to ensure maximum efficiency and catch problems early, before they can become bigger and more expensive. A service agreement also ensures that the homeowner has priority during the hottest and coldest months, when problems are most likely to emerge.
"With proper maintenance, HVAC and water heating equipment can last for many years," said AHRI President & CEO Stephen Yurek. "Homeowners need to regularly service their heating, cooling, and water heating equipment to keep them running smoothly," he added.
The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) is the trade association representing manufacturers of air conditioning, heating, and commercial refrigeration, and water heating equipment. An internationally recognized advocate for the industry, AHRI develops standards for and certifies the performance of many of these products. AHRIs 300+ member companies manufacture quality, efficient, and innovative residential and commercial air conditioning, space heating, water heating, and commercial refrigeration equipment and components for sale in North America and around the world.