Any landlord will know that an HVAC system can get a great deal of use, and if it’s not maintained, it can take a real beating. This is also true of larger HVAC systems that are used to heat and cool a multi-apartment building. Prevention is better than the cure, and there are essential things that a landlord can do that will keep their HVAC equipment working as intended. If you’re a property owner with rental properties, it’s vital to check in with your renters regularly and schedule some maintenance at the start of each cooling and heating season. Let’s take a look at four crucial HVAC tasks that you need to complete to keep your systems running efficiently.
- Regularly Replace the Air Filter
The air filter in your HVAC systems is essential to clean the air and to prevent dust and other debris from damaging sensitive components in the system. If the air filter is clogged, it will prevent airflow, the HVAC system will work harder to compensate, and this can lead to an equipment failure and a lower lifespan for the system. The EPA has stated that an HVAC air filter should be changed at least once every three months. But, this is a bare minimum, if you notice that the air filter is dirty sooner, it should be cleaned or replaced according to the instructions in the owner’s manual. As a matter of course, it’s a great idea to check the air filter each month to ensure that the air filter is clean and clear.
Changing an air filter is easy, the process is detailed in the owner’s manual, and you need to make sure that you have the right air filter available. If you try to use an air filter that’s too small, the air and particulates carried by it can simply blow around the filter and into your system. If the air filter is too large, it will be hard to install, and you could cause damage to your HVAC system. Air filters are easy to purchase, the model number is often printed directly on the filter, and if you buy them in bulk, you can make significant savings.
Some landlords make the air filter change a responsibility for their tenants. This can work in some cases, but sometimes the tenant can forget, or they may not be able to change the air filter themselves. Changing the air filter is a crucial task, and it may make better sense to do it yourself or hire a professional HVAC company to manage this task for you at each rental property. If you’re set on getting the tenant to do this, they will need a reminder. Some landlords provide a set of air filters to use, and if you choose this route, it’s a great idea to check the air filter every six months or so to make sure this task is being carried out regularly.
- Cleaning the Condenser Unit
The condenser unit is a large mechanical system that’s typically located outside the property on a nearby concrete pad. A larger building may have multiple air conditioning condenser units for each floor. Gradually, these air conditioning condensers will become filled up with materials, such as grass, leaves, and other debris. Any obstructions in and around the condenser can impede how the HVAC system works. An AC system works by removing heat from inside the building and releasing it outside, and a dirty condenser has to work harder if it’s dirty.
A condenser unit should be cleaned annually; this will make it more effective, and it will increase the useful lifespan of this essential component. There are coil cleaning products available at home improvement centers or hardware stores, and these are a useful way to clean coils that are extremely greasy or dirty. If you’re not sure how to proceed, get some professional help; an HVAC technician will clean your condenser coils as part of a regularly scheduled service visit.
- Protect Your Condenser
Now that you have a cleaned condenser, it makes great sense to keep it clean and protected from dirt and debris. Take some time to clear the area around the condenser by trimming back plants, weeds, and shrubs. You may want to landscape the surrounding area to prevent any plant growth near the condenser unit. If there are no obstructions, the condenser will be able to easily release the heat gathered from inside the building. If any grass cutting is taking place near the condenser, make sure that a bag is fitted to the mower to prevent grass from getting into the unit.
Inside your air conditioner condenser unit, you will notice a series of fins that are used to promote airflow. These fins can be easily bent, and they need to be straight to work efficiently. Most hardware stores will have a fin comb that can be used to straighten the condenser fins. If you notice that the fins are frequently bent, this could be a sign that a child, pet or another visiting animal is climbing onto the condenser unit and bending the fins. Further investigation may be needed to prevent this behavior and protect the condenser fins from becoming bent or damaged. Check the fins on each condenser annually and again this will be checked by an HVAC technician during a regularly scheduled service visit.
- Professional HVAC Inspections
If you’re thinking about purchasing a new rental property, it’s essential to get the HVAC system checked before you make a commitment to buy. A bad HVAC system can quickly turn a property into a bad investment that you want to avoid. A trusted HVAC professional can inform a potential landlord to potential problems during escrow, and this could help them to negotiate a better deal with the seller. The HVAC professional will be able to inform you when the existing needs to be replaced and how much this would cost. This will allow you to make informed decisions on when to repair or replace the HVAC system for maximum efficiency and returns on your investment.