There might be a lot of general maintenance you can take care of around your house, but when it comes to the upkeep of your HVAC system there are likely to be key elements you just don't have the tools for. Some maintenance tasks are straight-forward, common sense-matters that are clearly meant for professionals, others maintenance might require a professional inspection to even determine that a need exists. By educating yourself about the broader maintenance needs of your HVAC system you can avoid getting in over your head when attempting upkeep of your HVAC system alone.
Getting a pair of professional eyes on the inner workings of your HVAC system and its component parts can make identifying problems considerably easier. Not only will a skilled tradesman have a better idea of what they're looking for, they'll also be able to spot early signs of wear and damage from regular operation. Further, they'll have the tools necessary to see and access parts of your HVAC system that you couldn't otherwise look at, such as the inside of your ventilation ducts.
In addition to internal checks, various components rely on refrigerant gasses to operate. Central air conditioners and heat pumps both rely on a pressurized canister of Freon in order to perform their function. Checking the levels of Freon within a closed system of this nature require specialized tools. Further, systems which rely on refrigerants other than Freon may require specialized certification from the EPA.
Repairs and Specialized Maintenance
Anyone with a vacuum can clean out a floor vent, but the duct behind it is often too long and too wide to effectively clean without the right tools. Most HVAC maintenance contractors use a duct brush to both clean the inside of your ventilation system, and use a small camera at the tip to search for holes, gaps or damage to the ductwork. Further, repairing any holes or gaps in your ductwork will require tools, supplies and skills that the average homeowner isn't likely to possess.
Most important of all, the inner workings of your HVAC components will require special care to evaluate and clean. If a repair is needed, or a replacement part is required, a professional is more likely to have what he or she needs immediately on hand, or easily obtainable. It's not just a matter of blowing the dust out of the inside of your furnace, brushing debris off your AC unit's cooling fins or patching a hose.
Calling for maintenance on your HVAC system should be something you do in the spring and fall, when you can live without it for a few hours out of the day. Chances are, if it seems like something isn't working quite right, you need a professional on site to at least look it over. If attempting to address it yourself would require you to make some educated guesses along the way you should leave it to someone with the training to make the right choices.