In years as an HVAC technician, the pros learn to troubleshoot in more than just the basic ways. A technician can learn a great deal about looking at a client’s furnace, AC, ducts, and cooling conduits. However, we can learn a lot more by talking to our clients and hearing about how their HVAC systems have been performing in the months, possibly years, before we arrive.
The questions we ask clients can give us a lot more insight into not just what is wrong right now, but how it went wrong, how long it’s been going wrong, and what led to the current situation. If your HVAC technician asks you any of the following questions, they are on the ball and are ready to quickly get to the bottom of the issue.
How Long Has Your HVAC Been Performing Poorly?
One of the best questions we can ask relates to duration. We ask clients just how long their furnace or AC has been acting up or performing below their expectations. It may turn out that this problem has been brewing for years or that it has started very recently with a cause that can be pinpointed. Long-term issues will reveal that there is an underlying problem with the HVAC system.
What Symptoms Have You Noticed?
Next, we ask clients precisely what they have noticed. Clients have spent months or years with the same HVAC system, hearing its sounds, smelling its smells. Technicians are spending, at most, a few hours with the system troubleshooting what is wrong with it. If a technician willing to listen and can double-task listening and inspecting the device, then a technician can find out exactly what has been going on in the months that the client has been bothered by their HVAC, or if it’s only been a few days. Clients may say that they have heard specific rattling sounds, when those sounds occur, what time of day, what temperature the thermostat is set to when the symptoms have occurred, and this will inform your diagnosis.
Have You Noticed Any Unusual or Unpleasant Sounds?
If a client doesn’t know how to answer the previous question, we get specific. Ask what specific sounds they have heard. We frame the question so that clients will say “Sometimes it hums” if there have been sounds, and help them remember if they really have heard specific rattling, droning, or shaking recently. If you think it’s relevant, ask them to look further back, like if they heard rattling that then stopped.
When Was the Last Time You Changed Your Air Filter? How About the Time Before That?
If the system is opened to reveal dirty coils and a clean air filter, this could be a number of things. But it might also be that the client hadn’t changed their filter for years but tried a filter change before calling the technician. So we ask when they last changed their air filter. Then ask how long it was between then and the change before that. However, if we ask “How often do you change your air filter” we’ll often get a little hemming and hawing like when a dentist asks how often you floss. But if we ask specific change-by-change, clients can share the useful truth.
How Much Does HVAC Impact Your Monthly Power Bill?
Asking about the power bill is our number one way to get an idea of the system’s energy efficiency, especially if the client has the perspective to offer some range of data. If you’re familiar with how much it would cost to heat or cool an average home in the neighborhood, you can get a good idea of how much their HVAC system is being overworked. Which can tell us just how bad of shape it’s in.
Can I See Your Outdoor Compressor?
Many homeowners completely forget they even have an outdoor compressor because they never see it or think about it when they are experiencing HVAC troubles. That outdoor unit could be covered in leaves, dead or alive. It could be in full sun or shade. It could have ice creeping up the copper tubing leading out to the unit. Seeing the outdoor compressor can tell us a lot about why the HVAC may be performing poorly, or it will tell us that the homeowner is a meticulous landscaper and the problem is definitely inside instead.
When Was the Last Time Your Furnace or AC Was Serviced?
Most people don’t keep up with regular HVAC maintenance if they don’t have to. They only call for a technician when something goes wrong, and often only after it’s been going wrong for months and has reached a critical point of failure. Or a heat wave or cold snap hits and poor performance is no longer a workable situation.
Have You Taken Any Steps to Improve Your HVAC Before We Arrived?
Finally, we ask what the client has tried before they called. A great many homeowners and a surprising number of renters will try to fix a problem on their own before calling a technician to fix it for them. When we’re about to dig into an appliance and try to fix what’s wrong with it, we need to know just how much monkeying around has gone on before we got there. Maybe they just tried changing the filter and messing with the thermostat. Maybe they tried wiping off the coolant coils. Or maybe they did something really crazy we’ll need to undo right away before it does long-term damage if gone undetected. DIY is a dangerous thing, especially with so many guides online from expert and amateur sources alike. We need to know what’s been done to a unit so we know how to proceed and get their HVAC system back into safe working order.
The best way to understand a home HVAC system is to listen to the reports of clients. Sounds, patterns, performance, and power bills often highlight the pattern of behavior that will reveal the true problems. Contact us for more insights into your HVAC experience.