As long as an air conditioner is pumping out cool air, it’s easy to assume that all is well. If you compare your utility bills over time, however, you may discover that they’re steadily becoming more expensive. It may also seem like your air conditioning system isn’t working as effectively as it once did. These are signs of a poorly maintained AC unit. Without taking action now, you could end up facing frequent repairs, and your unit may not last nearly as long as it should.
You don’t have to resign yourself to inefficient and ineffective heating and cooling. Just invest a small amount of money in the routine maintenance of your air conditioner and other HVAC equipment.
Air Conditioner Efficiency
Today’s air conditioners are more efficient than ever. In fact, laws are in place to ensure that all air conditioners meet certain minimum efficiency requirements. All units are given SEER ratings, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio ratings. This rating simply reflects the cooling output of an air conditioner versus the amount of energy it needs. As of January 2006, the U.S. government requires all air conditioners to have SEER ratings of 13 or higher.
Without routine maintenance, an air conditioner’s SEER rating will drop over time. On average, a typical unit will lose about 5 percent of its efficiency per year if it’s not tuned up regularly. On the flip side, an air conditioner will retain about 95 percent of its efficiency with annual tune-ups.
Air Conditioner Effectiveness
As an air conditioner loses efficiency, energy bills become more expensive. Without regular service, an AC unit will become less effective over time too. Most people begin to notice that certain areas of their home don’t get as cool as they once did. Air conditioning systems also become less capable of removing humidity from a home when they’re not tuned up regularly. Excess humidity makes a home feel significantly warmer, so it’s a lot more difficult to stay comfortable.
Top Reasons to Schedule Routine Air Conditioner Maintenance
The most compelling reason to have regular tune-ups performed on an air conditioner is to maintain efficiency. A few other great reasons include:
- Avoid Costly Repairs –While servicing your air conditioner, an HVAC tech may notice small issues. Without routine maintenance, these issues could spiral into expensive problems down the road. During the tune-up, the tech can make the necessary air conditioning repairs. It has been estimated that more than half of all air conditioner repair calls arise due to insufficient maintenance. This service can save you significant amounts of energy and money.
- Maintain Warranties –In some cases, warranties are contingent on having regular maintenance performed. If you allow this important service to fall by the wayside, future problems may not be covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. The cost of the warranty is rolled into the air conditioner installation, so not scheduling tune-ups can also be a waste of money.
- Keep Utility Bills in Check –Routine maintenance helps to maintain the SEER rating of air conditioners. Your high-efficiency AC unit will continue to operate optimally when it is tuned up on a regular basis, and your energy bills should remain under control. You will no longer dread long, hot summer days and the exorbitant bills that sometimes accompany them.
What to Expect from an AC Tune-Up
Professional tune-ups include cleaning, inspection and service of your AC system. If issues are found, the service may take longer. In many cases, minor repairs are included in the cost of the tune-up. If a major problem is found, the tech would ask for your permission before proceeding with any repairs.
You can expect the following steps to be included in your AC service:
- Oil fan motors
- Inspect fan blades
- Inspect and test contactors
- Monitor compressor amperage draw, voltage draw and wiring
- Flush out condensate drain and treat with anti-algae solution
- Inspect bearings for wear and lubricate
- Level and calibrate thermostat
- Inspect condenser coil
- Inspect ducts for leaks
- Inspect safety components to ensure proper operation
Monitor operating pressure and level of refrigerant. If refrigerant levels drop by just 10 percent, it can cost as much as 20 percent more to operate an air conditioner. A low coolant level indicates a leak and it needs to be repaired to prevent additional problems in the future.
- Tighten electrical connections
- Look for and correct loose wires
- Monitor operating temperatures and pressure to ensure manufacturer’s specifications
- Inspect disconnect box for proper installation and rating
- Check fan motor’s volts and amps
- Clean or replace filters as needed
- Clear away debris from around the outdoor condensing unit
When should Air Conditioning Service be Performed?
AC tune-ups are available throughout the year, but the best time to schedule service is in the spring, before the summer heat arrives. AC contractors get very busy once the summer season sets in and it can be difficult to get a tune-up scheduled during that busy time.
Annual Service Programs
Routine AC service can help you avoid costly air conditioning repairs. It can extend the longevity of your equipment too. Even if you’re fully aware of the benefits, you may simply forget to have the service scheduled. A great way to ensure regular maintenance is by signing up for an annual service program. At Weather Masters Inc. we offer service agreements and maintenance contracts. You will receive friendly reminders when service is due so that you can schedule accordingly.
Getting a Return on Your Maintenance Investment
Even the most efficient air conditioners cost money to operate. For that reason, some homeowners balk at the idea of paying more to have service performed. Service typically needs to be performed one time per year. When you calculate how much you will save by maintaining the efficiency of your air conditioner and avoiding unexpected repairs, you’ll see that you will recoup your investment quickly. The superior comfort that you’ll enjoy may be less tangible, but it’s just as important.
DIY AC Maintenance
Homeowners often wonder what they can do to maintain their air conditioners. There are steps you can take to keep your AC unit running efficiently and effectively. However, these steps can’t adequately take the place of professional tune-ups. A few things you can do include:
- Keep debris away from the outdoor unit. Debris may include leaves and grass clippings. If debris gets into the unit, the efficiency can suffer. In some cases, this can also put excessive strain on the unit, which can cause mechanical failures.
- Invest in high-quality air filters and replace them regularly. Air filters have MERV ratings, or Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value ratings. The higher the rating, the more effectively a filter pulls impurities from the air. These filters also help to maintain indoor air quality. As an added bonus, they protect the inner workings of an AC unit as well.
- Don’t close air supply outlets in the home. These are crucial to the operation of your air conditioner. They also help ventilate the home.
Stay Comfortable with Springtime AC Service
Unexpected air conditioning repairs can pinch your budget. Routine maintenance allows you to take a proactive approach to the situation. It’s far better to uncover minor problems now than to wait until they become major repair issues later. When you consider how affordable the typical AC tune-up is, you’re sure to agree that it’s well worth the expense. Just make sure you choose a reliable and reputable heating and cooling company. Our team of professional HVAC contractors at Weather Masters Inc. provides annual service programs to keep you comfortable throughout the AC season.