Preventative HVAC maintenance checklist: 16 things you should do now

Jason Van Steenwyk
Jason Van Steenwyk | 6 min. read

Published on March 13, 2023

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. Starting preventative HVAC maintenance now will help you avoid costly repairs and pay off when the weather gets frigid.

Read on for a list of the 16 most important items to cross off your maintenance checklist and, if you’re looking for a more extensive season-by-season breakdown on property maintenance, check out our guide on the topic here.

Why Preventative HVAC Maintenance Is a Must

Regularly cleaning your HVAC systems can be a time commitment, especially when you’re juggling all the other aspects of property management—but it benefits your bottom line in the long run in several ways:

Efficient Energy Consumption: One of the most significant advantages of maintaining your HVAC system is reducing energy consumption. Through routine check-ups and cleaning, technicians can identify and fix issues that cause inefficiencies such as dirty filters, clogged ducts, or faulty thermostats.

Comfortable Spaces to Live: An adequately functioning HVAC system ensures the temperature and humidity levels are optimal, creating a comfortable living environment for your tenants. Routine professional maintenance prevents issues like overheating, breakdowns, or complete system failure, ensuring tenants enjoy a comfortable indoor environment all year round.

Prolong Equipment Lifespan: HVAC systems are expensive investments that require regular maintenance to ensure longevity. When HVAC units run under poor conditions or without regular maintenance, they tend to break down more often due to increased wear and tear resulting from neglect. Regular cleaning removes dirt, debris, and build-up from all parts of the system, including coils, condensers, and evaporators, which in turn avoids overworking motors, compressors, and other components.

Health Benefits: Unclean HVAC systems can lead to health issues such as allergies, asthma, and respiratory infections caused by dust, allergens, and pollutants circulating through the property. Regular maintenance helps prevent the buildup of these harmful substances. The result is healthy indoor environment for your tenants that also limits potential complaints or even legal disputes.

Cost-effective: Preventative maintenance involves detecting minor issues before they escalate into substantial problems, which may require significant repairs or replacing the entire system. With a service contract, your maintenance costs become predictable, and you can budget accordingly so there’s no surprises or tough conversations with owners.

Now that you know the benefits, let’s jump into what to look out for.

Annual HVAC Maintenance: What to Include in Your Checklist

There are any number of ways that the elements can test your HVAC systems, but certain actions can prevent the vast majority of issues that typical arise for residential rental properties.

To cover all your bases, a yearly HVAC maintenance checklist should include the following items:

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 Around Outdoor Units

Keep at least 2-3 feet of space clear in the area surrounding 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 and Do a Ducted Heating Cleaning

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. Ensure your ducted heating system is cleaned and ready for future use.

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 to be serviced.

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 Your Humidistats

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. Do a Thorough Air Conditioner and Air Duct Cleaning

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.

Make Your Annual HVAC Maintenance Plan Today

Use the 16 items above to create a yearly HVAC maintenance checklist you can rely on to stay ahead of the curb. Of course, HVAC systems aren’t the only part of a property that need regular inspections and repairs. You can explore our seasonal maintenance checklists for spring, fall, and winter to prepare your properties for whatever the changing weather may bring.

Buildium makes it easy to not only manage your vendors, but also track the status repair requests from residents in one place—no more lost tickets or missing updates from vendors.

Read more on Maintenance & Improvements
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.

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