How to Create an HVAC Inspection Preventive Maintenance Checklist

In the modern world today, everyone wants comfortable, climate-controlled environments whether they are at home, at work, or enjoying some form of indoor recreation. That means heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are expected to be working around the clock, every day of the year. Although that may not be a completely unrealistic expectation these days, some things need to be happening in the background to make that a reality, at least most of the time. Having a comprehensive HVAC preventive maintenance plan that’s regularly followed can go a long way in helping to ensure that likelihood. 

HVAC systems are one of those things we all take for granted and don’t think about very much. That is, until they stop working. Then, HVAC problems can quickly climb to the top of the priority list for the day, warranting emergency actions in the heat of summer or the frigid cold of winter. In order to avert such emergency situations, here is a guide to creating an HVAC inspection preventive maintenance checklist.

What Is an HVAC Inspection/Check?

An HVAC inspection is a comprehensive list of items needing to be completed either once or twice a year. It may include hundreds of items to simply be inspected and then repaired or replaced only if necessary. Other items on the list like air filter changes may need to be completed at regular intervals regardless of usage.

The main goal of an HVAC inspection is to catch major problems before they occur. If a minor repair or tune-up can be completed in the spring and fall of the year when the weather is usually mild, a breakdown during the extreme days of winter or summer may be less likely.

Obviously, this will benefit the tenants, customers, or visitors to a particular building or facility. However, it also helps the company or owner save money because major breakdowns or emergency repairs are usually much more expensive. In addition, the goodwill lost from employees, customers, or tenants is hard to recoup. Finally, trained HVAC technicians are much more available and less rushed during these shoulder seasons of fall and spring–and often much harder to get a hold of in a timely fashion during the busy summer and winter seasons.

What Is Preventive Maintenance?

Preventive maintenance is completing certain tasks on a regular basis, usually based on a certain amount of time or usage. The most common example is performing oil changes on a vehicle – either every three months or 3,000 miles. When it comes to HVAC preventive maintenance, most organizations should conduct inspections or routine maintenance during the milder seasons of spring and fall before extreme temperatures set in. 

Preventive maintenance is one of many different types of maintenance. It’s often much less expensive than emergency or reactive maintenance and often easier to implement than predictive maintenance. However, each kind of maintenance has its place in a comprehensive maintenance program and can be particularly suited to certain situations. 

Types of HVAC Inspections

Typically, an HVAC partner will offer inspections, tune-ups, or repairs in its suite of services. An inspection is usually done to gather detailed information of the performance of a boiler, furnace, heat pump, and air conditioning system. This may be done when evaluating whether or not it’s time to replace a unit or to get a general idea of the condition of the equipment.

An HVAC tune-up is usually a combination of a system check-up to identify potential issues to take preventive action as well as a list of tasks that can be done on a routine basis to keep the HVAC system in good working order. This includes lubrication, tightening of components, inspection, and air filter changes.

Finally, a repair-based inspection is initiated when an obvious problem has already come up and needs to be resolved. This type of inspection is focused on getting a broken system back up and running.

Typical HVAC Inspection Tasks

Although most HVAC inspection checklists may have upwards of a hundred items, here are some common things that are typically included:

  • Check and clean air intake
  • Inspect and change air filters
  • Listen for unusual noises when blower is running
  • Be sure condensation pans are draining correctly
  • Clean and lubricate motors
  • Inspect and clean ductwork
  • Be sure there are no cracks or breaks in duct connectors
  • Replace or fix any worn screws, gaskets, or latches
  • Inspect pumps
  • Look over oil bearings
  • Check electrical hardware and connections
  • Inspect safety controls
  • Be sure access panels and guards are in working order
  • Inspect both interior and exterior equipment
  • Clean damper controls
  • Check mineral build-up in water heater
  • Drain sentiment out of boiler and replace filter
  • Calibrate thermostat

Reasons for HVAC Inspections

For businesses and other organizations, many reasons exist for conducting regular HVAC inspections. Here are some of the top ones:

Minimize Breakdowns

Although there is no guarantee that performing regular maintenance on your HVAC system will completely eliminate the chances of a breakdown in the middle of summer or winter, it will reduce the likelihood.

Having a professional carefully inspect your HVAC system, perform routine tasks such as lubrication and air filter changes, and make minor repairs before they become major ones can go a long way in minimizing your risks of a major problem.

Extend Equipment Lifetime

Every piece of HVAC equipment has an average lifespan, but it can often be shortened or lengthened considerably based on preventive maintenance. For example, a furnace or boiler that never receives any regular inspections, cleaning, or lubrication may work for several years, but the longer maintenance is ignored, the harder each component will have to work. This results in wearing out parts much more rapidly. Consider something as basic as an air filter change. A clogged air filter will force the blower and other components to work harder and perhaps longer to move air through the system.

On the other hand, an HVAC system that is regularly maintained will have an easier time doing its job, protecting the more expensive components from unnecessary wear and tear. This, in turn, will extend the life of expensive components as well as the equipment overall.

Reduce Energy Costs

Furnaces, boilers, air conditioners, and heat pumps can consume a great deal of energy. When they work overtime due to poorly maintained components or parts, they will end up costing more in terms of monthly utility bills. In addition, a regular HVAC inspection can help businesses and organizations determine when a new, more efficient piece of equipment may be warranted based on the age and performance of the existing machinery and current energy prices.

Using less energy also boosts an organization’s focus on sustainability and concern for the environment.

Improve Health and Safety

A series of safety inspections are usually included with regular HVAC inspections to ensure fire hazards are eliminated or minimized, no dangerous leaks are occurring, and the likelihood of any dangerous situations such as potential pressurized explosions are reduced.

Regular HVAC maintenance can not only protect those who work near or on HVAC equipment but those using the building in general. For example, cleaning components and replacing air filters can improve indoor air quality and reduce allergens and other irritants.

Frequency of HVAC Inspections

The frequency of HVAC inspections may vary depending on the size and usage for your business or organization. In general, most HVAC systems should be inspected at least twice a year, before each major turn of season.

However, some organizations may want to check certain components of the HVAC system more frequently. For example, safety-related issues could be checked weekly or even shifted to a predictive maintenance system where sensors keep a constant eye on temperature and pressure ranges. Other items may be part of a monthly inspection conducted by an onsite maintenance technician while more comprehensive checks are done by a professional HVAC contractor.

HVAC Inspections Tips and Tricks

Not sure where to start? Here are some tips and tricks to help you create a solid HVAC inspection program.

Establish a process for your organization. Depending on the size of your business, you’ll need to first determine how much of your HVAC inspection will occur in-house vs. how much you’ll rely on an external HVAC partner. Then, be sure to map out what, how, and when each step will be conducted.

Use an asset operations management (AOM) system. For those inspection items you’ll be conducting in-house, use a computerized system to help you schedule preventive maintenance tasks based on usage, time triggers, or sensor alerts. This checklist can be created from equipment owner manuals or based on past experience. As your system collects data from ongoing maintenance and repairs, you’ll be able to modify schedules and tasks as needed.

Take advantage of service agreements. If you’ve recently purchased new HVAC equipment, you may want to partner with the company that sold you the unit. In most cases, professional installation comes with various warranties on labor and parts and can be extended with longer service agreements. Partnering with a professional HVAC company can be a good solution for smaller organizations or those that have a stretched maintenance department. HVAC is a contained system that can often be managed externally, freeing internal staff to handle day-to-day, building-specific maintenance issues.


HVAC maintenance is an important part of any comprehensive maintenance program. It’s central to keeping your buildings and facilities safe, comfortable, and healthy for employees, customers, or other tenants. Having a preventive maintenance checklist integrated into an AOM system, as well as a reliable HVAC partner, can go a long way in keeping your HVAC system functioning safely, efficiently, and effectively for many years.

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