Time for a tune-up

bret curry

Bret Curry is the residential energy
manager for Arkansas Electric Cooperative

Time for a tune-up

What do home heating and cooling systems and family vehicles have in common? They are modern conveniences that improve our quality of life. They are also expensive, require fuel for operation and must have preventive maintenance. When properly maintained, they generally provide several years of dependable service.

We all understand the importance of regular automobile maintenance. Following the manufacturer’s suggested service and maintenance schedule, including routine oil and filter changes, will extend longevity, fuel efficiency and reliability when you need it most. However, when recommended service and maintenance are overlooked, warning lights appear on the dashboard. If ignored, economic and mechanical calamity may follow close behind.

Unfortunately, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are not equipped with buzzers, bells, dingers, warning lights or a glove compartment containing a service manual. Generally, these systems are forgotten about unless they stop working. That’s why it is easy to overlook this important modern convenience when the system seems to be working just fine. But did you know our home HVAC systems also require routine maintenance?

Proper maintenance and service can prolong the inevitable. Some of the benefits from proper maintenance and service are lower utility bills. As a reminder, the power required to operate our HVAC systems accounts for about 50 percent of our total annual utility bills. An HVAC system that is neglected can (and many are) become less efficient and often does not seem to keep the house comfortable like it used to. Properly maintained systems also have fewer breakdowns. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for a minor problem to manifest into a significant problem because of oversight or neglect. Keeping the HVAC workhorse in tip-top shape will assure optimum performance when we need it most, like during the heat of summer and on cold winter nights. Yet, procrastination or shrugging-off maintenance and service requirements present opportunities for negative consequences.


Keeping the return-air filter changed is a very important, yet easy and affordable do-it-yourself maintenance component. There are differing rules of thumb regarding when to change the filter. I subscribe to the “keep it simple” version: When the filter is dirty — change it. Monthly is a great idea. However, if you have dogs, cats or feathered friends as house pets, a twice-per-month changing may be in order because dander can quickly clog a return-air filter. Houses located on gravel roads or with high amounts of air infiltration are candidates for monthly filter changes. The return-air filter’s job is to collect dirt, dust, dander and other particulate matter. Most are designed for short-term, single-use and for disposability. When in doubt, regularly change it out.

Another important service component is the high performance HVAC tune-up. These tune-ups generally are not do-it-yourself projects and require the expertise of an HVAC licensed professional. They are equipped with the right tools and skill sets necessary to return your system to optimum performance. These high-performance tune-ups are designed to inspect, clean and repair key components like the thermostat, air-handler, electrical connections, condensate drain, evaporator and condenser coils, refrigerant change, ductwork and much more. If you cannot remember the last time you’ve had an HVAC tune-up, it’s probably time.

I wish you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. Please feel free to contact me at smartenergytips@aecc.com with any energy efficiency questions. Also, be sure to follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/smartenergytips.org, visit our website www.smartenergytips.org, as well as listen to our podcasts.

Bret Curry is the residential energy marketing manager for Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation.