Philadelphia's historic homes come with charm and character, but often at the cost of HVAC efficiency. If you're grappling with the quirks of an older HVAC system, these 20 DIY tips can help you improve its performance and efficiency, ensuring your home remains comfortable without skyrocketing your energy bills.

  1. Change Filters Regularly: Replace or clean your HVAC filters every 1-3 months to ensure unrestricted airflow and efficient operation.

  2. Seal Ductwork Leaks: Inspect ductwork for leaks, especially in unconditioned spaces like attics or basements. Use mastic sealant or metal tape for a durable fix.

  3. Clear Around Outdoor Units: Ensure the area around your HVAC's outdoor unit is clear of debris, plants, and other obstructions to maintain proper airflow.

  4. Install a Smart Thermostat: Upgrade to a smart thermostat for better control over your heating and cooling, optimizing temperatures based on your schedule.

  5. Use Curtains and Blinds: Utilize window treatments to control sunlight, keeping your home warmer in winter and cooler in summer, and reducing the HVAC load.

  6. Add Weather Stripping: Apply weather stripping around doors and windows to prevent loss of heated or cooled air.

  7. Insulate Your Attic: Improving attic insulation can significantly reduce heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer, easing the demand on your HVAC system.

  8. Adjust Registers for Seasonal Use: In winter, open registers on the lower levels and close some on the upper floors to improve heat distribution. Reverse this in summer.

  9. Vacuum Indoor Vents: Regularly clean indoor vents and make sure they're not blocked by furniture or curtains.

  10. Check and Insulate Ductwork: Adding insulation around ductwork in unconditioned spaces can greatly improve heating and cooling efficiency.

  11. Perform an Energy Audit: Conduct a DIY energy audit to identify leaks and inefficiencies in your home’s envelope that could be overworking your HVAC.

  12. Use Ceiling Fans: Ceiling fans can distribute air more evenly throughout your home, allowing you to adjust your thermostat and reduce HVAC load.

  13. Program Your Thermostat Manually: If you don’t have a smart thermostat, manually lowering the temperature at night and when you’re away can save energy.

  14. Maintain a Clean Area Around Vents: Ensure furniture and rugs do not cover your vents, allowing for free air circulation.

  15. Bleed Radiators: If you have a hot water radiator system, bleeding trapped air from radiators can improve efficiency.

  16. Upgrade to LED Lighting: LED bulbs generate less heat than incandescents, reducing cooling needs in the summer.

  17. Use Kitchen and Bath Vents: Use vents when cooking or showering to quickly remove excess heat and humidity from your home.

  18. Seal Around AC Units: For window or wall units, ensure the area around the unit is sealed to prevent air leaks.

  19. Regularly Clean the Evaporator Coil: Check your system’s manual on how to safely clean the coil, or consult a professional.

  20. Schedule Professional Maintenance: Although not a DIY tip, having a professional tune-up at least once a year can catch issues you might miss and ensure your system is running at peak efficiency.

Implementing these tips can not only improve the comfort of your Philadelphia home but also extend the life of your older HVAC system and make significant energy savings.