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If you’ve never owned a Columbia, Maryland, home before, taking the leap can prove both rewarding and frustrating. Whether you’re building a home from the ground up or moving into a mid-century find, your HVAC system will play a critical role in your comfort, health, and finances.

Understanding how your HVAC system works and finding ways to make it more efficient will reduce the stress of first-time homeownership. Use this guide to plan ahead and keep tabs on the performance of your air conditioner, furnace, and other HVAC components.

Evaluating an Existing System

If you buy an older home, you probably won’t receive records that detail information about HVAC installation, repair, and maintenance from the previous owners. We can take a look at your system and let you know if there are any red flags for future problems. For instance, dirty air ducts, faulty blowers, and other mechanical issues can force your HVAC system to work harder than necessary, which means higher energy bills.

It’s also a good idea to know the make and model of your air conditioner, furnace, or heat pump. You can look up the equipment online to learn about its efficiency ratings, or you can ask us. We’re happy to let you know how much you should expect to spend on energy with the equipment in your new home.

Choosing New Appliances

If your older home’s HVAC equipment is outdated or inefficient, or if you’re moving into a brand-new house, you’ll need to select new equipment. There are several factors to consider before you make a purchase, including:

  • Energy rating: Every modern HVAC appliance comes with energy ratings that indicate its efficiency. For instance, gas furnaces have AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) ratings. The best gas furnaces have AFUEs of 95 percent or higher. You can also look at SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) ratings.
  • Compatibility: If you’re only replacing one component of your system, make sure it’s compatible with the other appliances. For example, you don’t want to buy an outdoor compressor that won’t work with the indoor air conditioning or heat pump unit.
  • Stages: Furnaces come in one-stage, two-stage, and modulating versions. Often, two-stage furnaces offer the best balance between energy efficiency and affordability. They operate at two speeds — high and low — depending on the outside temperature, so you don’t waste energy when maximum power isn’t necessary.
  • Size: We can evaluate your home and let you know what size HVAC system you’ll need in terms of power and energy consumption. Size also refers to the dimensions of the appliances themselves. If you have a smaller home, you might want to consider a package unit, which conserves space.
  • Budget: While you want the most energy-efficient HVAC appliances possible, it’s also important to consider the total upfront costs. We’ll help you find a product that satisfies your needs and falls within your budget.

It’s never a good idea to shop for and buy an HVAC appliance on your own. Instead, let us help steer you toward products that are compatible with your home.

You don’t have to replace everything at once if you buy an older home. For instance, maybe the furnace was replaced only a couple years ago, but the air conditioner has 20 years under its belt. Spreading out big-ticket replacements can help you save money toward home maintenance and repair without putting a strain on your current budget. Just keep in mind that more efficient units will save you money in the long run.

Installing a New System

As a first-time homeowner, you might want to fix a few things yourself. Maybe you want to install new carpet, hang new light fixtures, or paint the walls a more appealing color. Installing an HVAC system, however, is not a DIY-friendly project. Not only could you put yourself and your family at risk for injury, but you could also damage the system’s delicate components or render it inoperable.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “improper installation can reduce [HVAC] system efficiency by up to 30 percent.” Over the years, that 30 percent of wasted energy will add considerably to the amount you paid for the individual appliances. That’s why we offer convenient installation services for all HVAC components.

When you’re ready to install new appliances in your home, we’ll schedule a time for our HVAC technicians to perform the work. They will make sure that your thermostat is compatible with the new units and that everything works as it should.

Taking Care of Your HVAC System

If you’ve rented homes in the past, you might have some experience with HVAC maintenance. However, your landlord probably conducted most of the work. Now that you’re a homeowner, those maintenance tasks fall to you to either perform or schedule.

You can conduct some maintenance on your own. For instance, you should change your system’s air filter every one to three months (or when it looks dirty). The air filter protects your air conditioner, furnace, or heat pump from dirt and debris and helps maintain appropriate indoor air quality.

A clean air filter also boosts efficiency. When air can pass freely through the filter’s fibers, your system doesn’t consume as much energy to heat and cool your home. Since air filters are inexpensive, this is a cheap way to keep your system as efficient as possible.

It’s also important to keep tree branches and other obstructions away from your outdoor air conditioning unit. Don’t let the blades become clogged with leaves. If you have pets, vacuuming your home on a regular basis will prevent pet hair from clogging your ducts and causing wear and tear on your HVAC system. This is also another easy way to improve indoor air quality.

Observing Regular HVAC Maintenance

Some HVAC maintenance requires professional attention. Our expert technicians can clean and optimize your system so it’s ready for each season. We offer maintenance plans that involve biannual visits to your home, once in spring and again in fall. That way, your system is always ready for severe weather.

This preventive maintenance doesn’t just improve the quality and performance of your HVAC system, but also improves its efficiency. If your condensate pan, blower, or fan motor gets clogged, for instance, you’ll see an increase in your energy bills. Our talented technicians clean and tune up every part of the HVAC system to prevent these issues. Other aspects of preventive maintenance include:

  • Evaluating safety controls
  • Investigating strange noises or odors
  • Checking amperage for starting the system and running it
  • Tightening electrical connections
  • Lubricating bearings

This also gives us a chance to recommend any needed repairs. We might see a problem that could impact your home’s energy efficiency, in which case addressing the problem might save you money over the coming months.

Replacing Your Thermostat

Thermostats are an oft-neglected component of an HVAC system because most people don’t give them much thought. However, thermostat technology has come a long way over the last several years. You now have access to programmable and smart thermostats that can help you save money.

For instance, a programmable thermostat eliminates the risk of forgetting to adjust your settings. When you leave for work or on vacation, you’ll know that your system has reverted to its “away” setting, which means the system will consume less energy.

Thermostats can also become less effective over time. If you buy an older home, replacing your outdated thermostat will ensure accuracy, which improves your comfort in addition to lowering your heating and cooling bills.

We’re happy to help you select a new thermostat and provide professional installation. You don’t have to touch electrical wires or wonder if you connected the right parts. Plus, if you need a new air conditioner, furnace, or heat pump, it’s essential to choose a compatible thermostat. Otherwise, the system won’t function at its optimal level.

Buying your first home is an exciting experience. If you follow the above tips, you’ll enjoy a safe, effective HVAC system that doesn’t drain your bank account. To discuss our HVAC services, call Griffith Energy Services, Inc. at 888-474-3391, and we’ll schedule an appointment.

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