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Fall HVAC maintenance checklist: 16 things you should do now

Maintaining Your Properties

Major winter storms are still months away, but as the weather changes, it’s important to pay attention to your property’s HVAC units, furnaces, and related systems. Doing it now will pay off later, when the weather is super frigid.

  1. Inspect rooftop AC units and vents. Remove leaves, debris and obstructions to leave room for melting snow and ice drainage and removal.
  2. Clean out around outdoor units. Keep at least 2-3 feet of space clear around them.
  3. Purchase and install high-efficiency pleated air filters. New filters feature electrostatic charges that attract particles, rather than allowing them to pass through. They’re far more effective at filtering air particles, dust, pollen, mold, and dander.
  4. Turn on each heater/furnace. You’ll know immediately if there’s a serious problem. If you wait until the first freeze (or wait until your tenants turn them on for the first time) you’ll be dealing with cold, unhappy residents and a long wait for a technician.
  5. Schedule a combustion-efficiency test. You should hire a qualified technician to do this for you.
  6. Inspect refrigerant lines. Ideally, you’re doing this every month, so make it part of your regular property maintenance services.
  7. Check heat exchangers for leaks. If your boiler is leaking water, it needs service.
  8. Replace humidifier filters. Again, now is the time to do it. Don’t wait until winter, when you’ll have to go down to the frigid basement or attic to do it.
  9. Set humidistats to between 35 and 40 percent relative humidity. Depending on where in the country your properties are, this may vary: The Florida Solar Energy Center recommends an RH setting of 62 percent, but those in northern climates may be more used to something below 55 percent.
  10. Take care of insulation issues now. Fall or spring are the best time to do this work, but if your residents are unhappy and cold this season, you don’t want to be dealing with it in the dead of winter.
  11. Upgrade insulation material. Newer materials are much more efficient than legacy insulation, so if you’re doing insulation work already, now is the time to upgrade.
  12. Install heat-resistant radiator reflectors. Put them between exterior walls and radiators to keep more heat in.
  13. Check pipe insulation. Exposed pipes should be wrapped to protect them from freezing weather.
  14. Clean the air conditioners. Dump a cup of bleach and water (50-50 mix) into each air conditioner condensate drain. This will kill algae and mold and help prevent clogging.
  15. Have chimneys cleaned. If your property has chimneys, flues, vents and fireplaces, it’s critical to have them cleaned and serviced every year. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that more than 20,000 residential fires per year can be traced back to fireplaces and chimneys.
  16. Inspect all alarms. Winter is notoriously risky for both fires and carbon monoxide. Now is the time to change the batteries in all of your detectors and alarms.

As you’re inspecting and performing your fall maintenance, you may be wondering if now is the time to replace heating and cooling units. Be sure to stay tuned: next week, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of replacing units, and some incentives you might not know about.

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Jason Van Steenwyk

Jason is a freelance writer and editor, as well as an avid fiddler. His articles have been published in a number of real estate publications including Wealth and Retirement Planner and Bankrate.com. He lives in Fort Lauderdale, FL with his cat, Sasha, and an unknown number of musical instruments.

  • http://www.homeideations.com Scott HomeIdeations

    Jason, that’s a nice list. Coming from an industrial preventive maintenance culture, it is apparent that most operate in run-to-failure mode. Not ideal for several reasons. It often costs more to operate that way, and sometimes a LOT more, but old habits are tough to break. Thanks!