Maintenance and repair for your home air conditioning system can be a frightening thing, and rightly so. With all the components that make up the various systems and subsystems, a modern A/C unit can be an intimidating combination of machinery, electronic components, and chemicals all rolled into one.
However, with a bit of knowledge, you can save yourself a bundle on servicing costs. The need for specialized equipment or tools is not necessary. In most cases, the average tools you have in your toolbox at home will suffice, but you do need to know your way around your A/C system since different brands can vary drastically in the configuration. Most home A/C systems are split into two major units: the outdoor unit which contains the compressor and condenser, and the indoor unit which contains the evaporator coil.
Consistently following a planned maintenance schedule is the best way to save money and extend the life of your system. Your aim should not be to eliminate service calls completely. Some things can only be handled by a trained, qualified service technician. Instead, your goal should be to reduce significantly the number of visits by one of these costly professionals.
Warning: Before you attempt any maintenance or repair on your A/C system, shut down the entire system at the thermostat by switching the control from cool to off. Next, locate the correct switch(s), which power the A/C on your home circuit breaker. Flip the switch to the off position to make sure no power is reaching the system. Lastly, check the owner’s manual for your A/C unit and follow all safety precautions specific to your system.
1. Change Your Air Filter
Changing your air filter is one of the most important things you can do to keep your A/C system running at an optimal level. On average, you should change your filter once per month. Depending on how often your A/C unit is in use, you can probably let it go for a bit longer than that, but it’s not recommended.
A dirty filter impedes airflow and puts a strain on your system, drastically reducing the cool air flowing into your house. It can also damage some of the components. If the dust is not being filtered out correctly, it is traveling across the indoor unit’s parts and has a tendency of sticking to them. Hiring a professional to remove wads of dust from deep inside your unit is not only time-consuming, but it’s also very costly.
Types of Filters
There are two main types of air filters you can buy for your home A/C system. The first type is the disposable kind of filter. It’s what many homeowners tend to buy. It is easy to install, and once it reaches the end of its short lifespan, you can easily pull it out and install a fresh one.
Disposable filters are relatively cheap – typically $15 to $35 each. The price varies depending on whether you want an ordinary, generic filter or one that is hypoallergenic and cuts out electrostatic charge. Also, since units range in size, not all filters have the same dimensions – this can influence the price, as well.
The second kind of filter is the reusable type, usually ranging in price from $25 to $70. They cost more than the disposable type, but since they can be used over and over again, they are worth the extra cost in the long run.
When a reusable filter gets dirty, pull it out and give it a quick rinse with a garden hose to wash away the dust. After letting it dry, you can reinstall it into the unit. This type of filter is green-friendly and will save you money in filter costs.
At your local hardware store, you will find a multitude of filters in different shapes, sizes, and types. Before you make a purchase, you need to check the dimensions of your old filter. The nominal dimensions are usually printed in bold numbers on the side edge and look something like this: 14x21x1. There should also be another set of dimensions in smaller print, which is known as the actual size. It’s important to note that if two different filters have the same nominal size, it doesn’t mean they both have the same actual size.
Be sure to note both the nominal size and the actual size of your existing filter before you go to the hardware store to pick one up. Always make sure the actual size of the new filter you are buying matches the actual size of your old filter.
Before you go to your indoor unit and pull out the air filter, it’s a good idea to note the way it is installed, and which way the airflow arrow is pointing. Doing this can save you from a lot of confusion later on.
Locating the Filter
With so many different brands and configurations of modern A/C systems, finding the location of the air filter may not be as easy as you think. The filter may be located in or around the indoor unit, but this is not always the case. The air filter could be located inside your home near the thermostat or inside a return vent.
If the filter is located in or near the indoor unit, it’s usually in a slot on the side or underneath the unit, placed strategically between the air intake and main components. The slot may be completely open, or it may be covered by a panel held closed with fasteners, screws, or hooks.
Installing the Filter
You have your new filter, and you’re ready to install it. Not so fast. There is one last thing you need to remember. There is an arrow printed on the side edge, usually where the dimensions of the filter are. When you slide the new filter into place, this arrow has to be pointing in the direction of the airflow.
Filters are made with a wire mesh on one side. The purpose for this is so the wire will stabilize the fibers of the filter. If you install the filter with this arrow pointing in the wrong direction, the force of the airflow may destroy it. The last thing your unit needs is bits of filter material flowing through it.
Before you take out your old filter, note the direction of the arrow so you will be able to install the new one correctly. If you’ve already pulled the old one out and cannot remember which way the arrow was pointing, there is a simple rule of thumb you can follow.
There is an intake duct leading into your furnace or A/C. The air flows through this duct and over the components of the A/C so it can be cooled. Most filters are usually in between the air intake duct and the furnace or A/C. Since the air is moving through the duct and into the unit, the arrow should be pointing toward the unit. Double-check the A/C owner’s manual to make sure.
2. Mind the Vents & Ductwork
How well does your A/C system cool your home? Have you ever wished it was just a little stronger so it would get the job done quicker or more efficiently? Perhaps you have already contacted an HVAC professional and have been told your unit is too small for the total amount of square footage in your home.
Sometimes this can be the result when you add an addition, effectively enlarging the area that needs to be cooled. Many HVAC professionals will recommend installing a new A/C system or adding supplement systems. That may be one way of solving the problem, but there might be other things you can try to remedy the situation without spending thousands of dollars.
You might be tempted to close some vents. Perhaps there are rooms in your home that are not used as much, and you feel that cooling them is a waste of A/C resources. Perhaps you’re thinking that limiting airflow to them will boost the amount of cool air to other parts of your home that need it most.
What many people don’t realize is that when you do this, there is an increase in pressure within the air ducts, putting extra strain on the blower. Because of the added pressure, there will also be further leakage through tiny openings and cracks in the ductwork. Closing vents in your home is never a good idea, but optimizing the airflow is.
3. Optimize Airflow
Trying to redirect or restrict airflow by closing vents may seem like a good idea, but in the long run, it could be harming your system and costing you more in energy expenditures. All is not lost, however. Here is a list of things you can do to improve airflow:
- Replace Your Filter Regularly. Even moderately dirty filters will restrict the flow of air.
- Take Inventory of the Vents in Your Home. If they are dirty, clean them. Also, make sure they are not blocked. A piece of furniture, a pile of laundry, or children’s toys blocking a vent can significantly reduce airflow.
- Seal Up Any Leaking Ducts. This is a common problem and one you may not even realize you have. To seal up leaks, use a quality tape designed explicitly for ducts. Regular duct tape is more of an all-purpose product and is not approved for sealing ductwork.
4. Properly Maintain the Thermostat
The thermostat may be one of the smallest components in your A/C system, but it plays a crucial role in keeping your home cool. A thermostat is a sensor that monitors the indoor air temperature. Depending on what you set it at, it will start the A/C once the room temperature rises above that. On the surface, it may seem like a pretty worry -free device. However, even thermostats require a certain amount of maintenance and operational know-how on your part.
Most thermostats run on AA or AAA batteries that need to be replaced about once per year. If you don’t change the batteries regularly, you will eventually get a warning, usually in the form of a flashing battery icon on the thermostat’s front panel. Don’t wait until this occurs.
Low or dead batteries will hinder the operation of the entire system. The A/C unit may not come on at all, leading you to believe the system has broken down. In rare cases, the batteries may have enough power left for the system to kick in. However, when the A/C system has done its job of cooling, and it’s time for the thermostat to shut it down, it can’t because the batteries are dead.
To change the batteries on your thermostat, it’s a simple matter of opening the front panel, pulling out the old ones, and installing a fresh set. There are many different types and brands of thermostats, and battery replacement will differ. Consult the owner’s manual if in doubt.
Operating Your Thermostat
You may think the operation of the thermostat is relatively straightforward. It is for the most part. You set it at a certain temperature. When the actual temperature rises above the set temperature, the A/C kicks in. Finally, when the actual temperature has cooled sufficiently and reaches the set temperature, the thermostat signals the system to shut down.
Generally, that’s most of it with a few minor exceptions. An older type of thermostat, also known as a manual or analog thermostat, is just a simple sensor. You set it and forget it. These have been mostly phased out and replaced with programmable thermostats. Programmable thermostats are very efficient since you can program them to cool your home at different temperatures throughout the day.
For example, let’s say you’re never home between the hours of 9am and 4pm. During this time, your home does not need to be as cool and comfortable as you would usually like when you’re there. With a programmable thermostat, you can enter a schedule to achieve this, saving you the cost of needlessly cooling your home.
The problem arises when homeowners don’t realize they have a programmable thermostat. As odd as this sounds, this is a fairly common problem. For instance, many people move into a new home and throughout different times of the day, the A/C goes out. They take a look at the thermostat and see that it’s set to 75° rather than 72°, and they change it back. The same thing happens a few hours later. Over and over again, they find that they are resetting the temperature on the thermostat. This leads them to believe something is malfunctioning and they need to call for service.
It’s not difficult to reprogram your thermostat to suit your needs, or to wipe out the old schedule entirely. However, to do so, you will have to consult the owner’s manual. If you’re lucky, the instructions may be printed on the inside of the thermostat’s front panel. If not, and you don’t have the original manual, you may be able to find the instructions for your particular model on the manufacturer’s website.
5. Properly Maintain the Outdoor Unit
The compressor/condenser, also known as the outdoor unit, is in charge of transferring heat from within your home to the outside. It is the part of the A/C system that converts the gaseous refrigerant into a liquid state again so that it may be pumped back to the indoor unit to continue cooling your home. The outdoor unit has three major components: the compressor, the condenser, and a large fan. These components have to be maintained by keeping them clean and free of any obstructions.
The outdoor unit may seem like a complex piece of machinery. However, the job it performs is quite easy to understand. When the gaseous refrigerant reaches the unit, the compressor squeezes it in the first step to turning it back into a liquid. After that, the refrigerant travels through the condenser coils while air from the large fan blows across the coils, cooling it down further. The unwanted heat then dissipates, blowing out of the open casing on top of the unit. By this time, the refrigerant has been transformed back into a liquid and is pumped back to the indoor unit for the cycle to start all over again.
Since air is drawn in from the sides of the unit and expelled from the top, you need to make sure there are no obstructions blocking airflow. Rake away any leaves or weeds from around the base of the unit. If there are any shrubs in the area, it’s a good time to get out your pruning shears and clip them back. Generally, there should be a two-foot minimum clearance between the unit and any bushes or shrubs that may act as a resistance to airflow.
It’s a good idea to get the garden hose and give the sides of the unit a good wash. Throughout the seasons, dirt and debris will clog up the condenser fins, thus impeding airflow significantly. The impedance will add strain to the unit and significantly reduce the cooling capacity of the entire system.
Never use a pressure washer. The condenser fins are extremely delicate and can be damaged very easily. Even a strong jet from an ordinary garden hose can damage the fins. A gentle stream of water will clean it out entirely without bending or damaging anything. Also, before you begin maintenance, make sure that you shut the system off at the thermostat, cut the power off at the circuit breaker, and follow all safety precautions outlined in the A/C owner’s manual.
6. Change the Insulation on the Refrigerant Pipe
At the beginning of every season, before you turn on the A/C system, you should do a quick inspection of the refrigerant pipe that goes from your home to the outdoor unit. You may have noticed that it is covered with insulation. Perhaps the insulation is cracked, disintegrating, and badly in need of replacement.
You may have noticed the deterioration over the last couple of years, wondering how to change it and what type of insulation to buy. Would it really make much of a difference anyway? The answer is a definite yes. Changing the insulation can save you a lot of money. Without proper insulation on that refrigerant pipe, you could be losing out on almost 10% of the cooling capacity your A/C system was designed to deliver.
Before you begin, shut down the system at the thermostat and circuit breaker, and take all the necessary safety precautions outlined in the owner’s manual. Next, measure the diameter and length of the refrigerant pipe that needs to be re-insulated. These measurements will be needed when you purchase the new insulation since it comes in many lengths and diameters.
The foam rubber type of insulation is an ideal product since it is cheap, easy to work with, and can be bought at any home renovation center. There is a slit cut down the length of it, allowing you to open it up and fit it snugly over the pipe. It has an adhesive along one side of the cut that will allow you to securely close up the insulation once it has been installed.
Also, don’t get overzealous and try to insulate pipes that were not insulated before. Pipes that were not already insulated aren’t meant to be. Once you have purchased the insulation, follow these steps:
- Clean Out Old Insulation. Carefully strip off the old insulation while making sure there are no bits or pieces of it stuck on the piping.
- Measure. Measure out the exact length of insulation you need to do the job and cut it to size.
- Fit the Insulation Over the Pipe. Don’t worry about elbow bends in the pipe. The insulation is designed to bend and go around it without having to cut separate pieces.
- Seal the Pipe. Once the insulation is installed around the pipe, peel away the protective plastic off the adhesive. Do this only a few inches at a time, closing it tightly as you go. Keep doing this until the length of the pipe is completely sealed. That’s all there is to it.
7. Clean the Evaporator Coil
The evaporator coil is one of the most important parts of your A/C system. It’s the component the refrigerant passes through and absorbs heat as the air from your home blows over it. The evaporator coil must be cleaned once per year.
Cleaning an evaporator coil is more of an in-depth operation. The actual cleaning of the coil is the easy part. Some great chemical sprays do a wonderful job. The hard part is locating the coil itself. Since there are many different types of models, manufacturers, and configurations, you will have to rely heavily on the A/C owner’s manual to locate and identify your evaporator coil.
The evaporator coil of your A/C can be found in the indoor unit, most commonly sitting on top of the furnace. Just be sure to follow any safety precautions outlined in the A/C owner’s manual when accessing and cleaning the coil.
Once you have unobstructed access to the evaporator coil, you can clean it with a type of foaming spray that can be purchased in most hardware stores. Before you buy anything, consult your A/C owner’s manual in case there are any specific cleaning directions or product restrictions. For most evaporator coils, the foaming spray does a good job.
When you spray it on, the expanding foam should cover the coil completely. Later, when the unit is turned on, the buildup of condensation washes the foam away. It can be a messy ordeal, and it can be very difficult to access the parts that need to be cleaned. For these reasons, many homeowners prefer to leave this job up to the pros.
8. Maintain the Condensation Drainage System
When your A/C is running, there will inevitably be a buildup of condensation on the cold evaporator coil inside the indoor unit. In this way, your A/C behaves like a dehumidifier, removing moisture out of your home’s humid air. There has to be a way of trapping and removing condensation from the unit. That’s what the condensation drain, piping, and drain pan are for.
As the indoor unit runs and condensation builds on the evaporator coil, the excess water drips down off the coil and into the drain pan within the unit. The drain pan has a drainage hole that allows water to escape through, removing it from your home. Over time, the drain and piping itself can develop clogs from the buildup of a slimy type of algae. If this happens, the drain pan will overflow and can cause water damage to your home.
The best way to combat the situation is by flushing the drain and piping with something that will kill and remove the algae. A cup of bleach is ideal. If you do this twice a season, it should be enough to keep the algae from developing into a clog. Keeping the drain line clear is not a difficult task, but if it’s not done regularly, your system will be plagued with these blockages constantly. The algae are relentless and will grow at a substantial rate if left unchecked.
Another way to keep the condensation drainage system adequately maintained is by using A/C drain pan tablets. When you drop a few of these into the drain pan, they flush out the entire system of algae as they slowly melt and pass through the piping. There are many different brands of this product, and you can pick them up at any hardware store. Make sure to buy a kind that does not leave a buildup and is time released. The longer it lasts in your system, the more effective it will be.
Before you begin preventative maintenance on this critical system, there is something you should know. There are as many different configurations of condensation drainage systems as there are different models of homes. To make things more complicated, it’s nothing your A/C owner’s manual can tell you with any degree of accuracy. The condensation drainage system is installation specific – the layout of your home dictates its exact configuration.
The drain pan is usually located within your unit, somewhere underneath the evaporator coil. However, that’s pretty much the only thing for which you can be reasonably certain. For example, some drainage systems may use a small pump that forces the water out of your home and down a sewer line, while other systems might use gravity to channel it out of your home and into the yard.
Some will have an access cap you can open to pour bleach in, while others will not. In this case, access to the drain line is gained by opening the main access panel of the unit and dealing with the drainage hole in the drain pan itself. At this point, you need to put on your detective’s hat and conduct a thorough examination of the drainage system.
Once you have a good understanding of the drain line configuration and where everything is, use one of the methods outlined above to conduct maintenance on this critical subsystem. If you are working near any of the A/C components, remember to turn the A/C off at the thermostat and make sure the power to the entire system is off at the circuit breaker. Also, follow any other safety precautions outlined in the A/C owner’s manual.
9. Unclog the Condensation Drainage System
If you know how to unclog the condensation drain, you can potentially save hundreds of dollars throughout the life of your A/C system. This is one of the most frequently occurring problems, and it’s not cheap to fix. If you call a qualified service professional, they may charge you between $125 to $200 for a job that is relatively easy to fix and does not take much time.
If you’re not vigilant with maintenance, it’s highly likely that your condensation drain will become clogged. Unfortunately, it will continue to happen over and over again, sometimes even more than once in a cooling season. Southern climates where A/C is in heavy use are most susceptible. However, this type of problem can occur in any region of the country.
The clog occurs when a buildup of algae grows in the condensation drain line system. It will eventually clog the pipe completely, not allowing the condensation from the evaporator coil to drain correctly. This problem will stop the unit from cooling your home, but that may be the least of your worries. When water backs up and has nowhere to go, it can cause water damage to your home.
There are two ways you can tell if you have a clog. First, you may see water around the indoor unit. If the unit is in your attic, you may not know the problem exists until water stains appear on your ceiling or walls. Second, the A/C unit may stop cooling. The fan may continue working, but no cold air will be coming through the ductwork. This occurs when your A/C is equipped with a cutoff switch. When it senses a buildup of water, the cutoff switch will shut down the cooling part of the unit, thus stopping excess condensation from forming.
Some do-it-yourselfers have successfully unclogged their pipes by sticking a plain plastic tube down the pipe and blowing the obstruction clear. This is not recommended. Good old-fashioned lung power does not have the force required to remove the clog in most cases. It may help, but if the blockage is not completely removed, the problem will recur within a relatively short period.
The two best methods of unclogging the condensation drain line are by blowing out the clog using compressed air, or by extracting the clog with a wet/dry vacuum. Before you begin, turn off the A/C system at the thermostat, shut off the power to the entire system at the circuit breaker, and take all necessary safety precautions outlined in the owner’s manual.
The configuration of the condensation drain line differs from home to home. Before trying to unclog the line, you need to do some detective work and identify the drain itself, the line, whether the drainage system has an access cap or not, and how the excess water is disposed of. Some systems may have a small, external pump, whereas other systems may use gravity to channel the water out.
Using Compressed Air
This method of removing the clog is a very efficient way of handling the problem. Unfortunately, many people are not equipped to do it this way, but buying the necessary equipment may not be that expensive. You can get a drain gun or something similar anywhere between $30 and $50. These small tools, which ordinarily fit in the palm of your hand, are powered by CO2 cartridges.
The first thing you need to do before you unclog the line is to find your access point. If you’re lucky, the network of pipes has a cap somewhere, usually close to the unit, that can be removed to allow access. If not, you will have to open the main access panel to get at the drain itself. This is usually located within the drain pan inside the unit. This is often the case with smaller A/C systems designed for condos.
Once you have access to the line, take the nozzle of your compressed air device and position it so that it fits snugly onto the drain. Usually, the nozzle will have a fitting that will sit tightly on the drainage hole. This is so that a seal will be created as the air is forced down the pipes. Once everything is set, activate the device and give a short burst of air down the line. This should be enough to dislodge any clog.
Make sure to note how much pressure your device uses. You don’t want to use excessive pressure when unclogging the line. If there is a pump operating along the line close by, you don’t want to damage its components. Also, excessive pressure from something like an industrial-strength compressed air machine may damage the seals holding the pipes together. Always make sure the compressed air device you use is designed for the job you are using it for.
Using a Wet/Dry Vacuum
This method is the complete opposite of using compressed air. Rather than blowing out the clog, you extract it with the use of suction power. You do this from outside where the drain line exits your home, usually near the outdoor unit.
There are some cases where this method may not be feasible. For instance, some homes have a small pump near the indoor unit that pumps the water directly to a sewage line. In that case, the drain line may not extend to the outside or even have an access point along the drainage system.
Using a wet/dry vac to unclog the condensation drainage line is a fairly straightforward procedure. On the outside wall of your home, there will be a hose or drip pan that carries the water a few feet away from your foundation and harmlessly into the ground.
Unhook the hose from the drain line pipe. If there is a drip pan in use, you may not need to remove anything. The piping of the drain line might already be open to allow the excess water to drip into the pan. There might be a wire mesh filter to take out, but that’s about it.
Once the drain line pipe is open, take the nozzle of the wet/dry vac and fit it over the end of the pipe. Tightly wrap the connection with a cloth so a strong suction will be created when the vacuum is turned on. When you’re all set, turn the vacuum on for a few seconds. That’s all it needs to clear the clog.
As a warning, if any part of the drain line is inaccessible because the piping is bonded together, do not force the pieces apart. You will have to find another access point.
10. Remove Ice Buildup on the Unit
A buildup of ice on any component is not normal and means there is something wrong with the system. Don’t blame it on a humid day. If your A/C is working properly, there should be no buildup of ice no matter how humid it is. There are two reasons why ice can form on your A/C unit. The most common cause is insufficient airflow. This is usually an easy fix. The second most common cause is a drop in the level of refrigerant.
If ignored, ice buildup on your unit can damage the equipment. The first thing you have to do is shut down the A/C system entirely and allow the ice to melt. Do not try to knock the ice off, pick at it, or scrape it away. Doing this can damage its components. Shut down the A/C and let the ice melt naturally and completely.
Airflow: Yes, a filthy air filter can cause the buildup of ice. If this is the problem, replace it with a clean one immediately. Also, check the vents inside your home and make sure none of them are blocked.
Low level of refrigerant: Through regular wear and tear, older A/C systems can develop leaks. At this point, the drop in the level of refrigerant will not only keep the A/C system from cooling your home, but it will also cause a buildup of ice. Do not try to replace or add more refrigerant yourself. Now is the time to call a qualified HVAC professional.
11. Reset the Unit
If your A/C system is not cooling your home and you have no idea what’s wrong with it, don’t call for service just yet. It might be that a system reset is all you need to get the A/C running properly again.
Usually, a power outage will be the cause of the malfunction you are experiencing. Even the power going out for a short period can cause this glitch. You might not be aware of this if it happened late at night. All you know is that the A/C system is not cooling. Follow these steps to reset the system:
- Turn the A/C Unit Off at the Thermostat. You do this by flipping the switch from the cool setting to the off setting.
- Turn Off Your Home Circuit Breaker. Find your home circuit breaker and completely shut the power off to the A/C system. Make sure no power is reaching the system for a few minutes. This should be long enough to put everything into a restart mode.
- Turn the Power Back On. Turn the power back on and flip the switch on the thermostat from off to cool. At this point, your A/C system should be working correctly if there is nothing wrong with it.
12. Troubleshoot Your A/C System
If there is a problem with your A/C system, the first thing you need to do is eliminate the most likely causes. It’s possible that you may have forgotten a simple step or two along the way, keeping your A/C from starting up or cooling your home properly. Below is a list of things you should check before you get out your toolbox or call for assistance. This list may seem like it was compiled for a novice, but even the most experienced homeowner can forget the simple things now and then:
- Check the Filter. Pull it out and see how dirty it is. If you hold it up to a light source and can’t see any light coming through, it needs to be changed.
- Inspect the Air Vents. Conduct a quick survey of all air vents in your home, unblocking any of the ones that have been covered up.
- Check the Circuit Breaker. Take a look at the circuit breaker and make sure every switch connected with any unit in the A/C system is set to the on position.
- Inspect the Outdoor Unit. Good airflow is an absolute must. If shrubbery around your outdoor unit is choking airflow, you need to prune it back. Perhaps you have covered your outdoor unit with a tarp for the winter and have forgotten to uncover it. This is a common mistake many homeowners make before they turn on their A/C for the summer.
Once you have checked these secondary causes and your A/C unit is still not cooling correctly, then it could be a more serious problem.
13. Know When to Call a Professional
Sometime during the life of your home A/C system, you will probably need to call a professional for service. When should you call for assistance? When should you attempt to tackle the job yourself? You are the only one capable of answering these questions honestly since you know your capabilities and limitations.
A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if you feel comfortable fixing the problem that has arisen. Do you know exactly what the problem is? Do you feel confident that you can resolve the situation without causing further damage to the system?
Also, since your A/C system contains mechanical, electrical, chemical, and other subsystems that may pose a danger to you, do you feel you have the necessary knowledge to get the job done safely? These are all legitimate questions you have to answer honestly. If the answer to any of these is no, don’t even attempt it. Call someone qualified to deal with the malfunction or specific maintenance task.
14. Find the Right HVAC Service Professional
Even though some of the repairs and maintenance tasks outlined here seem relatively simple, you have to remember that your home A/C system is a very complex collection of components. Finding the right HVAC service professional is not always easy. You can also start your search with HomeAdvisor. They thoroughly research and do background checks on HVAC professionals in your area. This allows you to know you’re only choosing from the best. The checklist below should help in narrowing down the best candidates.
- Are They Fully Licensed and Insured? You shouldn’t rely on a handyman or jack-of-all-trades to fix your A/C system. Licensed HVAC personnel are required to have a certain amount of training according to state regulations. Liability insurance is an absolute must, as well.
- How Experienced are They? How long has the company been in business, and is this something they do full-time or part-time? Ask them for references. If they have none or will not give you any, this could be a red flag.
- Ask for an Estimate Before They Start Work. It’s usually a good idea to get a couple of estimates from different companies. Bear in mind that the cheapest option is not always the best one. You want quality work, not a poor patch-job.
- Do They Have Experience With Your Equipment? Your HVAC service professional may be phenomenal at what he or she does, but they might not be familiar with the brand of your A/C system. This can be a potentially disastrous situation. If the diagnosis and repair of your system are not spot on, it could take longer to get the problem resolved. This will cost you more in labor and could require replacement components that were not necessary in the first place.
- Ask About Service Contracts. How much do they charge for semi-annual service contracts? If you feel you don’t need this service because you plan on doing the maintenance yourself, ask how much they charge for a one-time maintenance visit. It’s always good to have a professional come in and take a look every once in a while.
Modern A/C systems are quite efficient and rarely require major repairs. A good portion of the cost of keeping your home cool is in preventative maintenance, troubleshooting, and minor repairs and adjustments. If you handle these tasks yourself, you can drastically cut the need for expensive service calls. Also, sticking to a well-organized maintenance schedule can substantially lengthen the lifespan of your A/C system.
However, always keep in mind that your A/C system as a whole is a complex group of components working together in a perfectly synchronized cycle that recirculates air while absorbing and disposing of unwanted heat. Without a doubt, you will eventually need the services of a qualified HVAC professional no matter how vigilantly you maintain your system.
On those rare occasions when your A/C is being serviced, don’t hesitate to ask a lot of questions. Usually, most service personnel are good about explaining what they are doing, why they are doing it, and how it will help in cooling your home. The more knowledge you gain about your particular system, the more it will help when you decide you want to attempt some new maintenance tasks yourself.
Do you handle the routine maintenance tasks and minor repairs for your home A/C system? If the answer is yes, have you noticed a drop in yearly operating costs?