The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) is a U.S. national trade association that represents heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration contractors. The ACCA chapter located in Houston has more than enough experience with sweltering midsummer heat to make it worthwhile to take a look at the tips that they recommend for both commercial and residential HVAC users.
The first of their recommendations: "Don't ignore your heating and cooling system. Your HVAC/R system is a great big mechanical system, just like your automobile. You know that you need to keep you car tuned up and get your oil changed regularly. Your comfort system also requires regular maintenance from qualified specialists."
Their tools of choice are preventive maintenance agreements (PMAs), "agreements between you and your ACCA quality contractor for scheduled inspections and maintenance of your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system. PMAs are generally scheduled semi-annually to maintain peak efficiency, prevent utility overpayment, and avert system failures through predictive maintenance that can help extend the life of your HVAC system."
They may give ACCA members work, but PMAs have a pretty significant advantages for the consumer, too: "PMAs typically more than pay for themselves through higher efficiency, less utility overpayment, and contractor discounts. PMA customers typically receive a discount on all parts and services performed during the entire year....Should a system failure occur during the heat of the summer or cold of the winter, customers with PMAs generally receive priority service." Finally, "...contractors are often able to assign technicians to the specific customers. That way, you get to see and know the same service technician, and he or she becomes more familiar with you and your equipment."
If regular preventive maintenance check-ups by general practitioners are good to safeguard the health of and HVAC system, then--to follow the medical analogy further--predictive maintenance may be the equivalent of the diagnostic tests, like X-rays and MRIs, that are used to track the more subtle signs that attention may be needed. Or, as the ACCA put it, you get "Peace of Mind: Predictive maintenance will mean fewer system failures and a longer life for your HVAC equipment."
And, the stakes certainly are substantial. "The HVAC system is most likely the single biggest use of energy in your home. In commercial applications where refrigeration is applied (combined with HVAC systems), huge amounts of energy are used in the building. In fact over 1/3 of the energy used in the United States is used to heat and cool buildings. According to the Consortium of Energy Efficiency (CEE) up to 50 percent more energy can be saved with proper installation, sizing, and maintenance of commercial central air conditioning and heat pumps."
That's as true if you're freezing in Fairbanks as it is if you're overheated in Houston.
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