Calendar icon February 6, 2023

Give Your HVAC The Tune-Up it Needs Before Summer Hits

Keep your air conditioning running efficiently throughout the summer with some simple maintenance tips.


  • Take care of your things, and they will take care of you.
  • Always practice safety
  • Clean your outside unit
  • Check inside unit for damage and inefficiencies.
  • Enjoy the fruits of your labor

You wake up on Thursday and start your routine. You hit snooze on your alarm, go back to sleep, wake up again ten minutes later, take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, feed the dog/cat/children, and leave. But when you get in the car, it won't start. Congratulations! Your car just ruined the rest of your day! Now you need to get it to an auto repair shop somehow and to figure out transportation.

Take care of your things, and they will take care of you.

It's never a great feeling to lose something that you take for granted and rely on. Although not every problem is preventable, regular maintenance sure helps. Simple things such as checking the car oil and brake fluid can make the difference between going about your day as planned and a trip to the auto shop with a crying wallet.

This same concept applies to your HVAC system. Remembering to take care of your unit will make a big difference in energy costs and extend its lifespan. You can invest some time in routine HVAC maintenance each year, or you can invest in ice packs and fans until you can pay a professional to come and repair it. The choice is yours.


An A/C system has many parts


Always practice safety.

Before you dive in, you should shut down the power. Find the breaker box and turn it off. It's best not to take chances when it comes to electricity and moving parts. If you have a packaged system (one that does the job of cooling and heating your home), you also need to turn off the flow of the natural gas line before starting. Find the gas line, and you'll see the knob to turn.

Clean your outside unit.

Let's begin outdoors. On top of your HVAC unit, you'll find the fan cage. Remove this with a screwdriver or wrench to expose the inside. Now, you can remove any debris by hand such as leaves, pine needles, grass, dead squirrels, and other unwanted treasures. OK, maybe not dead squirrels, but it's not pretty.

Next, remove the covers from the sides of the unit if there are any. If you'd like to be thorough, use the brush attachment of a vacuum and suck up any dirt that may have collected on the thin, delicate metal columns. Those are called fins. Then, grab a water hose and rinse the fins from the inside out to get everything else. You can access the backside of your fins through the top of the unit. By washing from the inside out, you're pushing gunk out of the system instead of into it. Be sure to let everything you have washed dry before turning on your system again.

SN Tip: Do not use a power washer! Although they are great for deep cleaning, the pressure can easily damage your HVAC unit. If you need to deep clean the fins, there are cleaning solutions made just for that.

After you clean everything, check the fins for any areas where they may be bent. It's a good idea to take some time and straighten these out, as it will help with efficiency, which can save you money. They make tools specifically for this task known as fin combs, but in a pinch, a butter knife can work as well. Gently wedge it in between and push the bent fins back into place. After that is complete, the fan cage can be put back in place and installed. Sorry ahead of time, because this may be a little tedious.


fin combs are useful and easy to use
SN Tip: Be exceptionally gentle when straightening your unit's fins. These are fragile, and too much pressure can cause damage.

To prevent future debris and ensure adequate airflow, you should clean up the area surrounding the condenser. Trim nearby branches and vegetation as well as clear any other obstacles that could end up inside the unit. Ideally, you want your outdoor unit to have about two feet of space in all directions.

One last thing to check is the insulation on your coolant line. Two different coolant lines exit your house and enter your unit. Don't worry about insulating the smaller of the two as it typically carries the warm refrigerant. The larger line should have insulation around it inside and outside the house. If you find that it is not in tip-top shape, you can buy new insulation foam at a hardware store. Cut the length you need and keep it in place with electrical tape. When your coolant line isn't insulated, you could have condensation inside the home and will definitely lose efficiency because it will collect heat from outside. By insulating the larger coolant line, you're taking care of your house and making your HVAC unit's work a little easier. And by regularly checking the insulation, you'll be sure to not run into those issues.

You are now all done outside! Put away any tools that are lying around and get yourself a glass of water.

Check inside unit for damage and inefficiencies.

SN Tip: if you have a packaged system or don't have a furnace/AC inside, some of this doesn't apply to you. If that's you, you can skip to what matters here.

Let's now continue this project inside the comfort of your home. But wait—did you remember to cut the power from the breaker? Just a friendly reminder.

Start with a visual inspection. Check coils, pipes, and even the floor. What you will be mostly looking for is dust buildup, oil stains, and rust. You should clean any dust. If you notice oil stains or rust, that may indicate a leak—you don't want those. This leak could be from any number of things, including a coolant line. If you see a water stain, a severe problem is waiting to happen. See if you can find the source of the leak and seal it or replace the part if possible. If the conditions seem to be too big for your britches, this might be a job for an HVAC technician. It'll certainly be cheaper than waiting for something to break.

If your HVAC system has a humidifier, close the bypass to the humidifier. Then turn off the humidifier itself. While it is helpful during the winter to stop dry air, it won't be beneficial or efficient to have this running with the scorching weather.

With every HVAC maintenance session, it's essential to clear the drain pipe. Start by finding and checking the drain pan, located near the bottom of your unit. You want it to be clean and free of debris.

Now for the good stuff. Open the drain pipe connected to the pan and pour some water directly in the pipeline. Make sure to have a bucket underneath not to leave a puddle on your floor. Flush out any dirty water and debris in the pipe with an air compressor. A wet/dry vacuum works well here too. Detach the pipe at a junction a foot or so down the line from the pan and insert the vacuum nozzle there. Plug the other side of the pipe that you disconnected from the pan with something airtight such as someone's thumb or a cork. Now turn on the vacuum and with the other end plugged, any dirt and grossness should be sucked out.


a dirty drain pipe can cause worsening efficiency

Reattach the drain pipe and conduct a final check. Pour some water into the pan and examine if it smoothly flows away. Lots of issues can arise from maintenance neglect regarding this particular area. If water cannot properly flow through the drain pan, it will overflow and can cause significant water damage to your unit. Some HVAC systems are above the first floor, and that's the last place you want water damage.

One of the simplest things you can do is to change your air filter. It will stop debris from entering your unit as well as help keep your air clean. A clogged filter will drastically diminish airflow and could damage your unit. The costs for repairs is not worth it. One inch thick filters should be changed every one to three months. Filters that are four inches and thicker are typically changed out every four to six months. It'll depend on your environmental circumstances and the quality of the filter that you use. If you are unsure, install a new filter and check to see how dirty it looks every month. If you would like some assistance to make sure that your filters are regularly replaced and on time, we might know of a handy subscription that will help! *Cough *Cough*

Enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Grab your sunscreen and shades, because you're all set for summer! Turn on the power (and natural gas) to your HVAC system now that you've done your part to make it clean and keep it happy. A happy HVAC system will gladly reward you with the comfort of cool air for months to come! Take care of your things, and they will take care of you. It is certainly more pleasant than the possibility of coming home to a humid inferno of misery and sweat.

If you lack the right tools, don't have the time, or come across something concerning about your HVAC that seems to be out of your league, there is no shame in reaching out to a local HVAC professional. There is a lot of HVAC maintenance that you can do on your own, but some tasks are too big for the untrained.


Wouldn't it be nice to regularly replace your air filters on time without any reminders, going to store, or struggling to find your size? Of course it would. Make the smart choice and consider giving Second Nature a try! With our air filter subscription, we automatically send you the filters you need when you need them. Go ahead and mark that to-do off your list forever. We dare you.

Keep learning

Chambers Theory Endorses Second Nature’s Resident Benefits Package

Chambers Theory is a world-renowned property management team with clients in more than 30 countries worldwide. They specialize in serving the U.S. military, State Department, and Foreign Services families. Their motto “Real Estate With Intelligence” is more than just a saying. It’s on full display through the introductory videos for landlords and residents on their website in seven languages (Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Vietnamese, French, Croatian, and English) - all spoken fluently by their own property management (PM) team. Since its founding in 2018, Chambers Theory has been achieving extraordinary performance benchmarks. They’ve led the marketplace in delivering the “Golden Triangle of Success” to their clients, which means the lowest vacancy, the highest average rents, and the highest quality of tenants of any property management firm in its same service area. They’ve also donated over $100,000 to local charities and community organizations, while also leading the way in promoting sustainability practices in real estate and property management services. Their outstanding team attributes their success to their ability to develop and utilize their emotional intelligence skills to capacity to care with all their interactions with both landlords and residents. That’s why they fully endorse the Resident Benefits Package at Second Nature! Find out more about what a Resident Benefits Package is, its benefits, and how it can help create a Triple Win for you, as well as your residents and investors. Related: The State of Resident Experience Report

Calendar icon July 18, 2024

Read more

Investor Experience Platform™️ IXP™️

An Investor Experience Platform™️ (IXP) in property management is a suite of products, services, and benefits offered by property management companies to property investors. Just like a resident benefits package is a way to drive value for residents, investors, and property managers, the IBP™️ is an innovative approach to property management that focuses on driving value for an investor's assets and turning that value into profit for the property management company. In this article, we’ll dig into the different features that an Investor Experience Platform™️ can include, and how those benefit not just investors, but property managers and residents, too. What Is an Investor Experience Platform™️ (IXP)? As stated above, an Investor Experience Platform™️ (IXP™️) is a comprehensive suite of services that offer property investors higher quality property management, stability, and profit. An IBP™️ typically includes concierge-level services beyond basic property management – such as property insurance policies, eviction guarantees, rent guarantees, maintenance plans, asset performance reports, etc. These services are aimed at maximizing the investor’s assets, stability and convenience, profitability, and peace of mind in managing their properties. They're commonly managed through an investor experience platform to securely manage and monitor the performance of these assets online, which we'll discuss later. The first step to outlining an IBP™️ is to define what your basic management fee means and covers. If the answer is, it’s collecting rent, handling maintenance, and general communication – does that include maintenance coordination or is that a separate fee? Does it include asset reporting or is that an additional service? In your management agreement, define what the management fee is, what it covers, and how much it is. An IBP™️ can be an effective tool for articulating the new and differentiated things that an investor wouldn’t be able to do on their own and that you are offering beyond basic property management. Articulate your unique and differentiated services (IBP™️) and use that as a tool for positioning and charging for what it’s worth. What’s Included in An Investor Experience Platform™️? An Investor Experience Platform™️ should include a range of solutions to help deliver consistency, insight, and asset protection to a property owner’s portfolio. After all, professional property managers don’t have to be functional managers of a home – they can be strategic partners in the management of financial assets. You might hear services similar to the IBP™️ called an “owner benefit package,” but at Second Nature, we believe that the “investor” term is useful in encouraging a longer-term mindset, and emphasizes the economic value professional property management can bring. According to Eric Wetherington, VP of Strategic Initiatives at PURE Property Management: “As property managers, we need to think more like asset managers. This client made an investment, and we should be guiding that client through managing that investment, not just collecting rent.” To build and manage a winning IBP™️, property managers need an Investor Experience Platform that unlocks scalable product and service customization, digitized onboarding, accounting policy automation, and more. In addition, Investor Experience Platforms provide transparency and convenience for your investors. Here are some of the most valuable services that property managers can offer through an innovative Investor Experience Platform™️. Property insurance program Similar to offering a renters insurance program through an RBP in the lease agreement, property management companies can offer an insurance plan to investors to cut costs and ensure the safety of their assets. Most management agreements will include the requirement that the investor carries insurance on the property and that the property manager is additionally insured. But what if you as the property manager could help manage that for the investor – at scale? Property Insurance for investors should have dynamic pricing based on individual investors’s property portfolio and needs. The benefit beyond flexibility is the savings they’ll see on their premiums while also getting insurance that’s tailored to the needs of their specific property class. At Second Nature, we work primarily with single-family rental properties and small multi-family residences. Property Insurance Programs can bring scale that will drive economic value for the investor over what they could get retail on their own. They’d still have the option to go get their own insurance that meets requirements, but they can pay you a small fee to manage it for them. Rent guarantee An IBP™️ can include a number of financial guarantees to protect property investors and drive ancillary revenue for PMCs. A rent guarantee, or rent protection, ensures a consistent rental income to investors by protecting them against resident defaults or non-payment of rent. If a resident fails to pay rent, the property management company covers the unpaid amount and takes necessary steps for eviction or collection, providing financial security and minimizing the risk for property owners. Rent guarantees work for professional property management companies that have enough properties to balance the loss of rent if a resident doesn’t pay. The risk is low and the additional profit from fees for this guarantee can have a very high ROI, while driving satisfaction and stability for the investor. Plus, if you’re using services in an RBP to help incentivize on-time rent payments, you’ll rarely find yourself out in the cold. Eviction protection guarantee An eviction protection guarantee also goes beyond the normal scope of property management services and can be used as a secondary source of revenue. Eviction Protection is a service provided by property management companies to property investors that offers additional security and financial protection in the event of an eviction. Under this guarantee, the property management company assumes the costs associated with the eviction process, including legal fees and court expenses. It helps alleviate the financial burden on property investors and provides peace of mind by ensuring that they are safeguarded against potential losses resulting from resident evictions. The eviction guarantee helps protect property owners from the complexities and potential costs associated with evictions, ensuring a smooth and efficient resolution to tenant-related issues. Pet guarantees & other guarantees A pet guarantee is a service offered by property management companies to property investors that aims to address any potential issues related to allowing pets in rental properties. It typically involves implementing policies and procedures to ensure responsible pet ownership, such as thorough pet screening, pet agreements, and collecting additional pet deposits or fees. The pet guarantee may also include services like pet damage insurance or assistance with pet-related issues during the lease term. It provides property investors with a framework to accommodate residents with pets while minimizing risks and maintaining the condition of the property. For many residents, finding a pet-friendly apartment increases retention and profitability. They’re willing to stay longer and pay more for a pet-friendly place. And–get this–pet damage is less likely to happen than damage from kids! It’s not a huge risk to the asset, but can provide a big benefit in terms of satisfied, longer-term residents. Maintenance plan Home warranties are a four-letter word for property managers. They’re a massive headache to deal with, and yet there’s high demand for them among property investors. Because of that, most property managers charge a fee for home warranties, for each they have to file. Imagine if there was a world where home warranties weren’t needed. Here’s the thing: Professional property managers already have the vendor network and the know-how to coordinate maintenance jobs. What they don’t usually have is a product that’s priced to give the investor the experience they want. Let’s say right now an investor is paying $50 a month for a cheap home warranty. The warranty only covers 40% of issues and it creates all these extra people and friction in the middle. For anything moderately significant that goes wrong with a property, PMCs generally must contact the investor for permission to get work done. It’s all a massive hassle and loses time in maintenance requests that leave residents frustrated. What if there was a product that costs, say, $150 to $200 a month but it actually covered everything? Instead of having sudden expenses and emergencies, this maintenance plan smooths out the experience and makes it more predictable for the investor. For PMs, it means taking the initiative on fixes without waiting for approval. Imagine a world where you didn’t have to get owner approvals for 95% of maintenance issues – because they’re already budgeted for and already paid for. For residents, it means better maintenance, and faster. Another Triple Win! Asset performance reports Another piece focuses on property managers as asset managers. Think about any investment app, like Robinhood, Acorns, etc. You can log in to these apps any time, 24/7, and see how your stock and investments are performing. In most investment classes, you can see in real time how your assets are performing. Why shouldn’t property investors have that as well? An IBP™️ can include exactly that: a dashboard or online portal that shows investors regular reports on how their property is doing. They could get updates on the value of their home over time, the home price appreciation, rent price over time, and project rent growth, typically maintenance costs and how they’re doing against that, and more. Resident Benefits Package Another piece to include in your IBP™️ is to highlight the benefits of your resident benefits package to your investors. Explain how features like a filter delivery program protect their assets and reduce HVAC repair costs. Show how a renters insurance program can ensure coverage and protection. Give numbers on how credit reporting incentivizes on-time rental payments and helps ensure financially stable renters. Explain how a movie-in concierge saves both time, headache, and money. Each of the pillars of an RBP is critical to encouraging better resident behavior, increasing renter retention and lease renewal rates, reducing vacancies, and more – all primary goals for a property investor. A note about Rent Advance Programs There’s been due buzz about “Rent Advance” offerings, though many advise caution when approaching this financial product. It works in some ways like cash advance programs, which can satisfy urgent needs, but not be more valuable for anyone long term. The way it works is PMs offer to send a year of rent upfront to the investor in a big chunk, and collect monthly from the resident. The investor typically pays a 5-10% premium on the advance, which can be their entire expected return. So the question becomes, where do they put that cash to get a better return instead? Another thing to think about is who would actually use this product. Investors who don’t have enough cash on hand? How does that benefit anyone in the long run? What happens when there’s a big maintenance bill later? Does this encourage better decisions and practices by the investor? To date, there’s been pretty low adoption of this program, which is another sign it may not be hugely beneficial to everyone involved. But plenty of innovations start that way, evolve, and find traction. One case where it might be a value generator is if an investor is looking to take a cash advance and put it toward a down payment for another house. That would benefit the property manager as well, promising more business, and the PM could offer a lower rate for getting more properties to make the financing more attractive than hard money loans or other alternatives. The jury is still out here, it’s an interesting one to track. How Can Investors and Property Managers Benefit From an Investor Experience Platform™️? Investors and property managers can benefit from an Investor Experience Platform™️ in several ways. They’re also great for residents in the sense they build more stability and quality into the renting process. Here are just some of the benefits of an IBP™️. Enhanced investor attraction An Investor Experience Platform™️ provides incentives and advantages that can attract more investors. Financial guarantees and protections against the risks associated with evictions or late payments can increase stability, while services like a maintenance plan can ensure premium care of their property assets without increasing their workload. By offering attractive perks, property managers can differentiate their offerings and generate greater investor interest. Increased investor retention Both IBP™️s and RBPs help build loyalty with residents and investors. By fostering a strong relationship and demonstrating ongoing value, property managers can build trust and loyalty among investors, and retain them over the long term. IBP™️s help establish the stability, transparency, and asset growth for a real estate investment that an investor hopes to achieve. Improved property performance An Investor Experience Platform™️ can also contribute to improved property performance. For example, by offering discounted property management fees or access to professional services at reduced rates, property managers can help investors optimize their returns and reduce costs. Additionally, incentives such as rent guarantees or eviction protection can mitigate risk for investors and attract more capital to the property. Streamlined communication and transparency A well-designed Investor Experience Platform™️ facilitates effective communication and promotes transparency between property managers and investors. This can involve regular reporting on financial performance, property updates, and the sharing of relevant market insights. Transparent and consistent communication builds trust and confidence among investors, fostering a positive and long-lasting relationship. Competitive advantage A comprehensive Investor Experience Platform™️ can give property managers a competitive edge in the market. When investors have access to exclusive benefits and advantages, they are more likely to choose a property managed by a company that offers a compelling package – and to recommend it to others. Say hello to increased investment inflow and a stronger market position for your PMC. Should You Make an Investor Experience Platform™️ Mandatory? The first thing most property managers ask us when we’re talking about an RBP or an IBP™️ is: Should I make this mandatory for all investors or do I make it a flexible opt-in/opt-out program? Unlike RBPs, where best practices are more proven and established, different PMs are taking different approaches with their IBP™️s. Some have a mandatory level of service set at a flat price. Others may say they’re fine offering a base level of service without these differentiated products, giving investors the choice to simply pay a baseline management fee and opt out of the IBP™️ premium service. Some may offer a baseline to all investors and then give them the chance to opt in for premium IBP™️ services. There are a lot of ways to do it. With the RBP, we’ve found that making it mandatory does not generate nearly as much pushback as people expect – and can be a strong value add overall. Final Thoughts About an Investor Experience Platform™️ The Investor Experience Platform™️ is an innovative way to generate ancillary income and create more value for investors and residents. Similar to Second Nature’s premier Resident Benefits Package, the IBP™️ can deliver high-quality service for investor experience – and help create a triple win for investors, residents, and property management companies. The IBP™️ reinforces the value of a professional property management company for investors and helps differentiate you from the crowd. Stay tuned to learn more about the latest in the IBP™️ space, or learn more about how a resident benefits package can launch a whole new level of value for your PMC.

Calendar icon July 17, 2024

Read more

Receive articles straight to your inbox

Deliver the ultimate resident experience

Our Resident Benefits Package gives residents everything they want without all the work.