Q: What do I need to do, to maintain my central air conditioner?
A : Central air conditioners need regular maintenance to perform well. If you are a capable “Do-It-Yourselfer” you may consider doing some of the simple maintenance yourself. Sometimes it doesn’t need major repairs, just tweak or clean it. Here are some of the simple steps you may be able to do in cleaning and maintaining your AC.

  • To clean your central air conditioner; you need to turn off power to the unit. There should be a switch outdoors next to the compressor. In addition there should be a dedicated breaker or fuse in your electric panel. Caution: If you are not sure how to do this step, stop immediately and call an experienced ac repair technician!
  • Next, vacuum or use a soft brush to rid the outdoor coil of dirt, debris and grass clippings.
  • Next, rinse the outdoor coil with gentle flowing water from hose, being sure not to bend or miss-shape your coil fins.
  • Inspect the filters on your air handler, or furnace. If they look dirty, you will need to replace or clean them, based on the manufacturer’s instructions. Note: An air handler moves heated or cooled air through the ductwork of your home much like a furnace.
  • Clean and oil the indoor furnace fan, or air handler fan. Also carefully clean the fan blades on the outdoor unit, being extremely careful not to bend or dent the blades. Again, check the manufacturer’s instructions in your owner’s manual.

Q. What regular maintenance do heating and air conditioning systems need?
A : The most important part of HVAC maintenance aspect is maintaining unrestricted air flows. Dust, dirt, and debris are an HVAC system’s worst enemies. Whether it’s an indoor or outdoor unit, you must keep all filters clean and heat exchangers and coils free of restrictions.We recommend that your heating and cooling system be checked and serviced twice a year; ideally a spring and autumn tune-up. Also we recommend that you change your filter regularly, depending on the type of filter you have. This alone can eliminate many of the most common problems that need fixing and can significantly reduce the likelihood of a serious breakdown. A Dirks Comfort Club Membership is your assurance that these maintenance needs are met regularly and that any potential problems are promptly identified.

Q. How often should I replace my filters?
A : In general, Dirks recommends that you replace your disposable filters at least once a month. If you have washable filters, they should be cleaned/inspected at least once a month. Your Dirks service technician will recommend a replacement schedule that delivers the optimum efficiency and filtration for your specific system. With a Dirks Comfort Club Membership, we clean and inspect your HVAC system twice each year. Part of the service includes inspecting media-type filters and/or servicing your filtering system. For Dirks-installed media type filters, our service should be adequate. We recommend that you visually check filters and filtering equipment monthly. If filters look dirty, they need to be cleaned or replaced.

Q. In addition to changing my filters, what maintenance should be done on my furnace, heater and/or air conditioner?
Most annual maintenance procedures (and generally required by all major U.S. manufacturers to maintain warrantees)should be performed only by a qualified service technician. But here are some things that you can do to assure optimal performance:

  • Keep ground mounted outdoor units clear of debris, clutter, plants and weeds; they can reduce the airflow to the unit.
  • Use caution with weed trimmers around the unit to prevent damaging control wiring.
  • Keep pets away from the unit; pet urine can cause expensive damage.

Q. Are heat pumps efficient in Northwest Wisconsin?
Heat pumps are very effective for homes in this region. They are a good choice whether you rely on electricity or natural gas for your energy needs.

  • A heat pump is an all-in-one heating and air conditioning system that works year-round for comfort. During warmer months, a heat pump works as a normal air conditioner. In colder weather, a heat pump collects heat from the outdoor air and transfers it inside the home. Even when outside air feels cold, there is still heat in that air. On very cold days when there’s not enough heat in the outside air to meet the thermostat setting, an electric heater supplements the indoor air to warm a home. This process is quite efficient as it produces two to three times more heat than the energy it uses.
  • A heat pump can also be an effective add-on option to use in conjunction with an existing gas, propane or oil furnace. With this dual-fuel option, the two systems share the heating load, but never function at the same time. During your initial installation, Dirks will set the thermostat so each system operates when it is most cost effective.

Q. When should I replace my existing heating and/or air conditioning unit system?
All systems and units are different. Here are some rough lifespan guidelines to help you decide whether fixing or replacing is the right decision:

  • Average Lifetime of an Air Conditioner: 12-15 yrs.
  • Average Lifetime of a Furnace: 15-20 yrs.
  • Average Lifetime of a Boiler: 15-20 yrs.

Keep in mind that these are just guidelines. Some units last longer than that with regular maintenance and replacement of parts. But if a unit has been repaired repeatedly, or has been run excessively, it might make more sense to replace it even sooner. Paying for repairs to an old or inefficient system often simply prolongs the inevitable. An older system that breaks down once is likely to break down again…and again. That means more emergency service calls or, worse yet, the risk of damage to your home or to other components of your heating and cooling system.

There’s also an ongoing cost factor to consider. Restoring your old system will only bring it back to its current level of energy efficiency. After you’ve recovered from the repair bills and the frustration of system breakdowns, you still won’t save on your energy bills.

Some replacement systems can cost less than the cost of repeated repairs. And in many cases, installing a new heating and cooling system can actually pay for itself in energy savings within a veryreasonable timeframe.

Also, when replacing a heater or air conditioner, it is usually best to replace both units at the same time. This way, you’ll save on installation costs andboth systems will be sized and matched to maximize performance reliability and energy efficiency.

Q: What is a tune-up?
A : A tune-up is when an HVAC system professional checks the key components of your system and makes adjustments to the system to keep it operating efficiently.

Q: What’s included in a Dirks Heating and Cooling Safety Inspection and Furnace tune-up?
A: Our Service technicians will carry out the most extensive checklist we are aware of being available from any HVAC competitors in our service area.We are consistently are called on to perform repairs that were totally avoidable with even just a minimal cleaning and tune-up effort by our predecessors. The so-called “discount tune-ups” are one of the best sources of new customers for us.
Below is a partial listof just some of thetasks included:

  • Check carbon monoxide emission
  • Check gas valve, lines and connections for leaks
  • Check burners and heat exchangers
  • Inspect visible ductwork and chimney/flue pipe for leaks
  • Check unit for peak efficiency (adjust if necessary)
  • Inspect and clean indoor blower wheel and motor and record amp draw
  • Inspect crankcase heater
  • Inspect unit wiring and electrical disconnect
  • Inspect ignition system and assembly
  • Check and calibrate thermostat

Q: Should I close the registers and doors to areas of the home that I do not use on a regular basis?
A : Generally speaking, “No”. More often than not, closing the registers will decrease the systems’ airflow and efficiency. Properly sized systems are designed to cool a certain number of square feet. By closing registers and doors in certain rooms, you disrupt the airflow and cause your air conditioning system to work harder to distribute air to other areas of your home. Your system will work harder, to cool less space, making it cycle more and become less efficient.