With over 175 acres of parkland dotted with trees, fall foliage in Pearland, TX, is truly a sight to behold. Here, cypress, maple, and oak trees put on a majestic display of vibrant yellow, orange, and red hues.

But along with those magnificent colors come a higher risk for allergies and asthma. After all, fallen leaves mean increased mold activity. This season is also when some species of trees, grass, and ragweed release pollen into the air.

That mold- and allergen-filled air can enter your home and get circulated by your HVAC system. Fortunately, following an AC tune-up checklist can help prevent this from happening.

This fall HVAC maintenance guide discusses the items to put on your checklist and how they can help, so read on. 

Clean or Change Dirty Air Filters

Before cooling or heating the air, your HVAC system first pushes it through air filters. These filters collect indoor air pollutants like dirt, dust, mold spores, and pollen. They help keep the system from getting all caked up with debris that can reduce its efficiency.

Because of their role, standard air filters can get clogged within about one to three months. This can happen faster during fall, as molds become more active (due to the fallen leaves). Many days with high pollen count can also speed this up. 

Failure to wash or replace dirty air filters can strain the HVAC system. This makes it work harder, using more energy and spiking your energy bills.

Dirty air filters can also impair airflow, leading to hot and cold spots in your home. This can cause higher humidity levels, further reducing indoor comfort.

Also, when filters get dirty, they can develop gaps, allowing contaminants to bypass. The pollutants can then mix with and reduce indoor air quality (IAQ).

Poor IAQ can adversely affect anyone, but it can be worse for those with asthma or allergies. In Brazoria County, nearly 30,000 kids and adults have such health conditions.

So, if you or anyone in your household is among them, check your air filters at least once a month. Then, replace or wash them once you see significant debris build up. Doing so can also help lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5% to 15%

Check Air Vents for Dirt

Dust, molds, and pollen can also build up on the slats of air vents. You can keep this from happening faster and more often with proper air filter upkeep.

After washing or replacing your filters, inspect your air vents to see if they’re dusty or dirty. If so, it’s time to clean them, but cover the floor and furniture nearby first to keep rogue dust from settling on them.

You can vacuum or wipe your air vent covers with a clean rag and soapy water. After that, consider sanitizing them with disinfecting wipes. 

Ensure the Condensate System Isn’t Full

A drain pan and connected pipe make up the HVAC condensate system. You should find these components below your HVAC system’s air handling unit.  

The pan’s role is to collect the moisture the system removes from the air. That water then flows into the drain pipe, which channels it out of your home.

As it’s often damp, the condensate system can provide ideal conditions for mold growth. This is especially true if the pan and pipe have dirt, dust, and other organic residue. All these are nutrients for molds, allowing them to colonize.

Mold colonies can block the drain and pipe, making the collected water unable to leave your home. Instead, it may continue to pool until the pan is so full it overflows. If this happens, it can lead to water damage, higher indoor humidity levels, and more mold growth.

So, ensure you include checking and cleaning the drain pan and pipe on your AC tune-up checklist. Ideally, you should do this monthly since molds can be active during the fall season. 

Inspect the Ductwork

Duct leaks can cut your HVAC system’s efficiency by as much as 20%. These leakages allow conditioned air to leave before it reaches the rooms you want it to cool (or heat). As a result, your system gets forced to work harder (and use more energy) to reach your desired temperature.

Another problem caused by air leaks is that they can let unfiltered air mix with filtered air. This can then lead to poor IAQ and adverse health effects.

To prevent those issues, inspect the visible areas of your air ducts after you finish the steps above. Look for loose joints, cracks, and torn or damaged insulation. You should also listen for rattling or whistling; these are audible signs of duct leaks.

If you notice any of those symptoms, contact your local HVAC experts to get your ducts fixed. You can also ask them about air purifiers, including UV lamps, that can help improve your IAQ. 

Keep the Outdoor Unit Debris-Free

After your HVAC system extracts warm air inside your home, it sends it to the outdoor unit. The outdoor unit then expels the warm air outdoors. So if it gets blocked by plant debris and weeds, it won’t be able to “breathe” or “exhale.”

That’s why HVAC cleaning duties during fall should also cover your outdoor unit. Remove and bag plant debris that has piled up on or beside it. Bag them immediately to keep them from making another mess.

Please also ensure your outdoor unit has a 2-foot clearance on all sides. If you have potted plants near it, move them farther. You should also trim or prune trees and bushes too close to the unit. 

Time to Use This AC Tune-up Checklist

This AC tune-up checklist can help you keep your system in optimal condition this fall. However, please note that it only includes maintenance tasks simple enough to DIY. It’s still best to schedule your system for a comprehensive, professional maintenance program.

You can rely on P & M Air Conditioning and Heating for all your cooling and heating tune-up needs. We serve the Greater Houston, TX, area, including Pearland, and have been doing so for over 65 years.

Contact us today, and we’ll happily assist you with our high-quality HVAC services.