You’ve boarded the pets, asked the neighbors to get the mail, and turned off all your appliances and lights. You’ve taken care of everything, and now you can enjoy a few weeks of well-earned vacation away from the hassles and tasks at home.
Not quite. Before you hit the road, there are a few things you need to do regarding your HVAC system to keep it in good shape and ready to resume service when you return. At the end of your vacation, the last thing you want to do is return to a hot, sweltering home and a big heating contractor bill because you failed to take a few simple precautions before leaving on your trip.
Your HVAC unit is one of the most complex pieces of machinery in your home. It’s also one of the biggest consumers of energy, accounting for about 48 percent of energy use in the typical home in America, and likely even more in hot and humid areas like Tampa. Properly maintaining it when it’s in use and during periods of dormancy such as vacation travel will help preserve the longevity of your unit and help you keep your energy costs down.
Vacation HVAC Checklist
Before your next vacation, be sure to take care of these tasks to keep your unit in good repair and to lower energy costs while you’re gone:
- Turn it down, don’t turn it off – Contrary to popular belief, you shouldn’t completely shut down your HVAC unit while you’re gone. HVAC units are designed for regular usage, and when they are inactive for long periods, important components can deteriorate and operate at diminished capacity when put back into regular use. Also, when your HVAC isn’t active for long periods of time, moisture can build up in your home, creating conditions where mold can flourish.
- Change the air filters – Under normal conditions, you should change your air filters once a month to prevent them from becoming clogged. While you’re gone, your HVAC unit will be running less often, and dirt and dust will have less of an opportunity to build up on the filters.
- Prepare for adverse weather – Tampa is prone to storms during the summer, and these storms can cause damage to an HVAC unit. The most likely cause of storm damage to an HVAC unit is that of downed trees and limbs. Before leaving on vacation, inspect the area around your unit to see if there are any limbs hanging over it. If there are, remove them. Also, clear the area of underbrush and other objects a storm could cause to collide with your unit.
- Give your home a good vacuuming – Dust and other contaminants will accumulate while you’re gone and will circulate through your HVAC system. Reduce the amount of dust and allergens available to accumulate by giving your home a thorough vacuuming and cleaning before you leave for vacation.
When preparing to leave your home for a vacation, turn your thermostat up by about five degrees. Your unit won’t run as often as it does when you’re there, and the need for a comfortable temperature is paramount, but it will run enough to prevent moisture buildup and to provide sufficient activity for the system. Experts say the ideal temperature to turn up your unit to in the Tampa area is around 80 degrees.
You should still pop a fresh one in the unit before you leave to ensure the unit has the best possible protection from dirt and dust while you’re away. If you’re leaving for an extended vacation of several months, it may be worthwhile to have a neighbor or your regular ac maintenance technician change the filter a few times during your absence.
- Ensure sufficient airflow to your outdoor unit – Good airflow is essential to the operation of your HVAC unit. When the outdoor unit’s air intake is clogged, it has to work harder to perform, consuming more energy and putting more wear and tear on the device. Before leaving on vacation, check the intake on your unit and clear any leaves, limbs, or grass clippings from it.
- Make sure all windows are closed – Closing all the windows will reduce the amount of hot air entering your home, causing your unit to run less often. It’s also just good common sense from a security and safety standpoint.
- Close all your blinds and curtains – Blocking sunlight from entering your home will reduce the temperature inside, thus reducing your unit’s workload. You’ll want to make sure that there’s no direct sun shining on your unit’s thermostat, as this can cause it to indicate the room is hotter than it actually is, resulting in increased usage of the unit.
- Make sure the unit isn’t leaking – A leaking unit is the sign of a serious problem. If your unit is leaking, resolve the issue before you leave for vacation. An AC technician can quickly diagnose the problem and make a fix, averting the likelihood that the leak will result in the system failing. Replacing a system is much more expensive than fixing one, in most cases, so you’ll need to take care of this problem ASAP.
- Make sure all vents are open – Open all the vents in your home to ensure that air flows throughout the system and your house. HVAC systems are designed to operate with maximum airflow, so opening the vents will allow the system to operate in optimal conditions while you are away.
- Clean your system’s condenser coils – Your outdoor condenser coils are vital to the operation of your system. Condenser coils take heat collected from your home and release it into the outdoor air. When condenser coils are dirty, they won’t function at peak efficiency.
You can easily clean your condenser coils with water and coil cleaner but, if you’re not comfortable with doing this, you can get an firm to handle the job for you. If you clean the coils yourself, be sure to turn off the power to the unit before beginning work.
Keeping your coils clean is one of the most helpful things you can do to reduce energy consumption. According to the Department of Energy, dirty coils can increase the amount of energy needed to run your unit by about 30 percent . Giving the coils a good cleaning before leaving for vacation helps ensure they don’t accumulate debris and dirt that can hinder their effectiveness.
- Use a smart thermostat – If you haven’t invested in a smart thermostat yet, now may be an opportune time. Smart thermostats allow you to program your thermostat to run at certain times or maintain certain temperatures. Many can be managed remotely from your mobile device.
Smart thermostats are great for people who own multiple vacation properties, as they can adjust those properties’ thermostats remotely for reduced use when guests aren’t in residence. For vacationers, a smart thermostat can ensure that they don’t return to an uncomfortably hot home.
By taking appropriate steps before they hit the road, vacationers can avoid expensive A/C repair bills when they return. Homeowners can also avoid expensive repair work by entering into service agreements with reputable ac repair and maintenance companies. These contracts provide regular service, such as inspections, coolant recharging, duct cleaning, and more and can help homeowners avoid having to replace their units too early.
Air Rescue is a Tampa HVAC repair and maintenance firm offering a wide range of services, including ac repair, ac maintenance, duct repair and replacement, total system rejuvenation, and furnace repair and replacement. For comprehensive care from a firm with the experience and expertise to handle all problems, contact Air Rescue today.