Purchasing a rental home is a substantial undertaking, but it can be a solid investment in your future. One drawback can be the maintenance involved in keeping your property up to the standards expected by the tenants paying to rent them.
One of the most important aspects of your rental property is the HVAC system, not only because of your tenant’s continual comfort but also because of the expense of replacing poorly maintained HVAC equipment. In addition to having the system inspected before you purchase a property and professionally maintained once or twice per year, you will want to set up your own DIY routine for keeping the heating and cooling system running as intended.
Is your AC not cooling? Here are some of the most helpful tips we’ve compiled to keep in mind or try when looking to properly maintain the HVAC systems on your property.
Be Aware of Local Legal Requirements
Different zones have different requirements and considerations to be made for landlords and their responsibilities to their tenants. For example, under Arizona law, landlords are required to provide air conditioning or cooling to their tenants. If the HVAC system in a rental property fails, you can find yourself with an unexpected expense that must be repaired within days.
Failure to make appropriate repairs can cost you money and create a hazardous home environment for your tenant, which can result in an actionable court case. Just as your tenant must pay their rent, you must maintain the property and its components at an acceptable level.
Schedule Regular Maintenance
Rather than forgetting about maintenance that needs to be performed and then being rushed to accomplish it, set a schedule for the routine items that need to be performed. This will allow you to allot your time effectively and provide notice to your tenant about any downtime or access needed to accomplish your chores.
Regularly Change Filters
Changing your HVAC filter is perhaps the simplest maintenance you can perform to keep your rental’s HVAC system running well and operating at its fullest lifespan. While you can include a requirement in the lease that the tenant must change the filters monthly, there is no guarantee they will do so, even if you provide the filters as a part of their agreement. Schedule to replace the filters yourself on a monthly or quarterly basis depending on use. Not only does this prolong the life of your HVAC unit, but it also keeps the air quality in your property at optimal levels.
Examine The Belts and Bearings
Over time, the belts and bearings in an HVAC unit can get worn down or damaged by other moving parts. Check these components during your maintenance visits or have a trained professional do so during yearly or twice-yearly maintenance. If you are doing your own checks, be sure to grease them well to prevent any metal-on-metal grinding. Advise tenants to call you immediately about any noises that might indicate a problem in the interim between maintenance.
Clean Out the Air Ducts
Dirty air ducts can greatly affect the quality of the air being circulated within the property and reduce the life of the filters in place to remove contaminants. Inspect and clean your ducts during your maintenance visits or have them cleaned professionally. This will prevent filters from getting clogged and reduce the efficiency of the unit, increasing wear and tear on the system, as well as driving up costs associated with filter changes and energy costs to you or your tenant.
Inspect and Clear All HVAC Components
Be sure to check around the external HVAC unit. There should be nothing present that can interfere with the operation. Remove any debris, branches leaves that may get stuck in the fan or otherwise keep it from operating properly. Inspect for any damage that may have been caused by storms or other outdoor activities such as lawn-mowing or children playing nearby.
Bacteria breed fast in standing water. If you find puddles in the vicinity of your property, bacteria from it have the potential to get into the HVAC system, such as around external equipment, drain pans, or vents, and take measures to remove and prevent them from recurring whenever possible.
While you will want to keep your cost of upkeep low, you will also want to consider the costs incurred by your tenants. A poorly maintained HVAC unit can drive up the cost of energy for tenants without utilities included in their lease. Repeated high energy bills will likely increase the turnover rate in your property, costing you money.
Whether you pay for the electricity or your tenant does, you will want to keep these costs low by ensuring the optimal energy efficiency of your HVAC unit. You can do this by not only properly maintaining the HVAC unit but also taking some of the following measures to reduce costs and improve comfort in your rental.
- Seal air leaks
- Seal air ducts
- Replace faulty equipment promptly
- Seal windows and doors
- Install programmable thermostats
- Improve insulation if needed
Most HVAC systems last between 15-20 years. If the unit in your rental is already approaching the end of its lifespan, you might save yourself time and money by upgrading the existing unit to a newer model instead of trying to patch it together until it fails completely.
The last thing you want is for an HVAC unit to die at the peak temperature of a hot summer day or in the middle of a freezing winter night. Not only does this set you up for unexpected repair costs, but the price for repairs can be greatly increased if you require emergency service during non-standard business hours.
If you are seeing the need for HVAC repairs steadily rise, it might be time to upgrade your HVAC unit. If that’s the case, you might want to consider what improved options might be out there for you.
A mini-split system might be a better option for a large property that has older ductwork you don’t want to replace or that has uneven cooling points that can be better addressed and controlled by a mini-split system. You might find that you want to switch out that old furnace for a more modern heat pump or dual-fuel heating system that allows for more even heating throughout the property.
Whatever your situation, you can always benefit from extended warranties on new installations, home warranties for out-of-manufacturer systems, and routine maintenance contracts that keep your system running smoothly.