Blowing Hot and Cold: Heating and Cooling Systems

Learn how to properly care for your heating and cooling system with these tips.

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Know Your Home Heating and Cooling System DK - House Works © 2010 Dorling Kindersley LimitedKnow your systems. A breakdown is no time to try to get acquainted with household heating or cooling systems. Learn how your system works and where it's located before trouble strikes.

Household heating and cooling systems are essential components of home comfort and safety — and rank among the household's biggest energy consumers. Treat them well to keep them blowing hot and cold. Your comfort, your power bill — and your household's safety in inclement weather — depend upon proper care and maintenance.

Add these maintenance routines to your schedule to keep hard-working heating and cooling systems happy on the job:

Change filters regularly. Clogged air filters reduce airflow and make heating and cooling systems work longer and harder, consuming more energy and causing premature wear. Check system manuals, and change disposable filters regularly to keep air flowing freely. Clean filters mean less housework, too. Changed once a month, disposable filters clean the air of dirt, mold spores and pollen before it settles as dust on household surfaces.

Keep compressors free and clear. Central air conditioning and heat pump systems rely on outdoor compressor units to exchange hot air for cold. To do the job, these units need unobstructed surroundings. Each spring and fall, check the area around compressors for obstructions. Prune or trim any encroaching shrubs or plants. Remove leaves and debris from the sides and base of the unit. Make sure compressors are free to breathe!

Schedule service calls early. Heating and air conditioning systems require regular professional maintenance. Don't wait for the first chilly night or hot day. Schedule tune-ups before the weather changes. You'll have the service technician's full attention if he's not hopping to respond to emergency calls after the first hard freeze.

Ask for advice. While he's on the premises, ask the service technician for advice about your heating and cooling systems. Most techs love talking about their job, and are happy to give pointers on how to keep your unit running efficiently.

Fine-tune thermostats. If your household has a programmable thermostat, turn down the heat at night, or when the family is out during the day, then raise the thermostat settings for the morning and evening hours. Similarly, avoid the turn-it-up, turn-it-down habit. Juggling and jiggling thermostat temperatures can cause energy-gobbling secondary heating systems to kick in-and their high-energy cost will kick you in the wallet. Try to keep thermostat temperatures steady for best comfort and energy savings.

Maintain air filtration systems. Many newer homes feature in-house air filtration systems, while other families use portable air-filter systems to improve indoor air quality. Well-maintained units remove pollens and particulates from the air. Clogged filters or dirty collection plates, however, force filters to work longer and harder. Check the manuals on how to maintain your household's air filtration systems, and change or clean filters as required.

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Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer

Text Copyright © 2006, 2010, Cynthia Townley Ewer, extracts from Houseworks, reproduced with permission from Dorling Kindersley Limited

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