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Regular tuning up and maintenance of air conditioning units is the best way to keep the AC working at its optimal condition. It prolongs the lifespan of the AC system, and at the same time, it promotes better airflow ensuring energy efficiency. You may need a tune up if air conditioning running but not blowing cold air or having some other similar issue. When the AC is operating efficiently, high utility bills are kept at bay.

A routinely tuned-up air conditioner has a lesser chance of breaking down. Ask any family and they will say that usually, their AC will bog down just when they need it the most. When it is so hot outside, the heat and humidity even reach indoors. By being one step ahead of cooling issues, inconvenient and uncomfortable air conditioning breakdowns will be kept at bay.

What is an AC Tune-up?

You may be asking yourself is it necessary to service ac every year or only every so often? Like a vehicle, air conditioning systems also need a tune-up. During this maintenance activity, an HVAC professional inspects and assessed all the moving parts and mechanisms of the air conditioning system. Here they will determine whether the AC is functioning at its optimal levels and if not, the technician will carry out necessary repairs and replacements. He will likewise tighten loose parts, and grease those that need greasing. 

During an AC tune-up, the technician will also perform a thorough clean-up that will remove dirt build-up. Usually, dirt and grime build-up gives way to harmful corrosion.

Benefits of regular AC tune-ups

One of the most common causes of AC breakdown is neglect. Ill-maintenance or lack thereof. Most homeowners put off routine professional tune-up until their air conditioner breaks down. For them, why would they need to spend time and money on a problem that does not exist?

But this mentality is wrong. Foregoing regular maintenance can result in bigger expenses and more complicated repairs. Having tune-ups mean ensuring that the whole air conditioning system is functioning correctly as it should and that potential issues are addressed even before it causes costly breakdowns. It also helps prolong the lifespan of the air conditioner since parts will not get worn out prematurely due to consistent and thorough cleaning and greasing.

And when an air conditioner is functioning optimally, it will be efficient when it comes to utilizing gas or electricity. One of the reasons why cooling bills skyrocket is due to a failing air conditioning system, which utilizes more energy than needed. Below is a more detailed discussion of the advantages of having routine air conditioning tune-up:

An AC tune-up will prevent breakdowns and repairs

Having a regular air conditioning tune-up will prevent unnecessary breakdowns. Breakdowns usually take place on the hottest summer day, if only to underscore the importance of annual professional maintenance.

By spending time and money on preventive maintenance, homeowners would get to avoid spending a bigger amount of money on extensive AC repairs. Problems are nipped in the bud, therefore they are easier to resolve and less expensive to address.

Since air conditioners are much like any mechanized equipment, a single mechanism that deteriorates can strain the whole system and cause the overworking of other moving parts. When the mechanism is overworking, the tendency is for it to wear out prematurely. Parts replacement and complex repairs tend to cost more and become an even bigger inconvenience for everyone in the household. 

Regular maintenance equates to a longer AC lifespan

Air conditioners do not come cheap. It is in the interest of every homeowner to make the most out of their investment in an HVAC unit. By having routine air conditioning maintenance, homeowners get to lengthen the lifespan of their ACs. Ill maintenance gives way to early wear and tear, which damages the whole AC system. Apart from the damage that shortens an AC lifespan, lack of maintenance usually results in higher cooling bills, since worn-out mechanisms tend to compensate for their issues through higher energy utilization.

To give a better picture, a well-maintained AC can last up to 15 years, while those that are neglected and not subjected to routine maintenance, tend to conk out within 6 to 8 years.

Air conditioning tune-up lowers electricity bills

Regular maintenance paves the way for energy-efficient air conditioners. Since there is no airflow problem or mechanical issues, ACs work at their optimal levels and do not need to use more than enough fuel or electricity to function. By using just the needed amount of electricity, bills would be much lower compared to homes with neglected AC units.

Doing a DIY AC Tune-up

Budget-conscious homeowners may wonder if they could tune up their air conditioner at home to save on servicing costs. The short answer to this is yes. Knowing how to tune up one’s air conditioner can help ensure that it is well-maintained, especially during the hottest months of the year. Below is an easy-to-follow procedure for carrying out a DIY air conditioner tune-up:

Step 1: Replace the existing filter

Air conditioning experts recommend that filters are replaced every three months to ensure proper airflow within the air conditioning system. Families with pets or immunocompromised members should consider replacing their filters every 6-8 weeks to avoid allergies and airflow clogs due to dander.

When the filters are blocked with dust, dander, and other small particles, it hampers a smooth airflow which is essential to optimal air conditioning. Any homeowner can replace filters, so it is better to have a stock of replacement filters at home to make routine changing of filters less of a hassle. Most big box stores carry HVAC filters, a homeowner should just make sure to get the right size. Online ordering and subscriptions have also become a more common mode of acquiring filters.

Step 2:  Check out all air registers

Take a good look at all the air registers within the house to see if air can freely flow. Sometimes air registers get accidentally blocked with furniture or upholstery, impeding proper airflow between it and the air handler. Clocking, or intently closing air registers is detrimental to the AC system as it prevents correct airflow.

Step 3: Inspect the drain lines

It is important to check out the drain lines of the HVAC system. Cleaning the drain line is an integral part of HVAC preventive maintenance since it ensures that condensation can correctly exit the system. A clogged drain line is one of the most common causes of water leaks in the AC system.

The drain line is usually found in either the front or side of the indoor AC unit or the furnace. It is a white hose. Most high-efficiency furnaces share a drain line with the air conditioning unit. 

Upon locating the drain line, check for the portion where water flow can be tested. Try if water can correctly drain through the hose. If not, then try dislodging the blockages that formed in the drain line. Likewise, check if the hose has cracks or holes where water could leak. If there is an existing issue with the drain line, get in touch with an HVAC repair company that can immediately mend or replace the hose. Postponing such a repair can result in water leaks and other operational issues.

Lastly, confirm whether the condensate drain line is securely in place. It should not be loose or dislodged from its original position.

Professional AC tune-up

And while DIY tune-ups are beneficial for the AC system, it is undeniable that professional HVAC tune-ups are more thorough. Below is a rundown on what to expect during a preventive maintenance AC tune-up carried out by an HVAC specialist:

Thermostat Check

One of the first things an HVAC technician would check is the condition of the thermostat. He will inspect whether it remains accurate, and if not, he will calibrate it accordingly. Battery checks are also due for battery-operated thermostats.

The technician will likewise adjust wirings among other mechanisms that may need tuning up to ensure proper thermostat operations.

Assessment of the Evaporator Coil and the Air Conditioning Cabinet

The technician will then proceed to evaluate the condition of the evaporator coil as well as the AC Cabinet. Since the evaporator coil’s main function is to suck the heat indoors it is crucial that it remain in an optimal state. If it is filthy, leaky, or freezing then it will not function as efficiently, or could even cause a breakdown.

Should the technician notice any issue with the evaporator coil, he will mention this in the report and provide suggestions and recommended actions to the homeowner.

Inspect the condition of the drain pan

The HVAC technician will assess the condition of the drain pan and thoroughly clean it. He will see if there is existing damage on the pan such as cracks, that could potentially create cooling issues. The drain pan is usually located beneath the AC’s evaporator coil to catch the condensation that forms and drips from the coils. The technician checks whether the pan has cracks or holes in it and if there is mold growing on it. He will also assess whether it is still in its correct position so that it can appropriately catch moisture.

Apart from catching the condensation that forms within the evaporator coils, the condensate drain pan also collects random residue moisture that forms on other parts of the air conditioner. This function ensures the safety and operational efficiency of the AC as excess moisture is detrimental to its overall condition.

Assess the blower motor’s condition

The blower motor is yet another major mechanism within the AC system. During a professional HVAC tune-up, the technician will assess if the blower motor is functioning well and if it is clean and remains in good working condition. A filthy blower motor can drastically affect the efficiency of an AC so during a blower fan inspection, the technician will also thoroughly clean it up to remove dirt and dust build-up. After cleaning the fan, the technician will test its performance through an amp draw.

Check the airflow within the unit

The next step during a professional AC tune-up is the checking of proper airflow. Good airflow is the lifeline of an air conditioning unit. Without it, the AC mechanism will get strained, wearing out its parts prematurely and causing a spike in energy use.

The technician will check the condition of the filter and replace it if needed. He will then check all the vents and air registers. He will see to it that none are blocked or filthy. Thirdly, he will then assess the condition of the ducts. Holes and damage in the ductwork are one of the most common causes of energy inefficiency in AC systems.

After checking the air portals, he will then proceed to assess the level of static pressure which is indicative of the airflow levels within the air conditioner.

Visible condensate check and draining

At this point, the next step is for the technician to carry out a condensate drain inspection. He will assess whether the piping for the drain line, the drain, as well as the condensate pumps, are operating correctly and efficiently. If he sees any damage then, he will again recommend possible courses of action to take to remediate the matter. For some, it would just need a standard cleaning, while others may require minor repairs. Some issues on the other hand may call for a replacement.

Usually, AC technicians have enough supplies and equipment to replace standard AC parts so homeowners need not worry that parts replacement would take much longer. Reliable HVAC professionals come with a van completely stocked with supplies.

Check the efficiency levels of all electrical connections within the HVAC system, and adjust or tighten them as needed

The HVAC Condenser is a crucial mechanical part of the air conditioner’s operations. As a major component, it needs tuning up and preventative maintenance inspection to ensure that it can efficiently circulate refrigerant throughout the AC system and remove the hot indoor air away from the house.

During the tune-up, the technician will assess the performance of the condenser using specialized tools that could help him determine if it is still in proper work condition and rule out any possible internal damage.

As for electrical components, the condenser has multiple of these and needs to get inspected to find out if they are still optimally functioning. The technician in particular will check the voltages and amp draws within these electrical components. The wires will also need to get evaluated whether they are still correctly attached. Those that have loosened up will be adjusted and tightened. Those that are damaged will be replaced.

After inspecting the condenser, the technician will proceed to inspect and evaluate the performance of the contactor, capacitor, fan motor, and compressor.

Check out the outer casing of the condenser unit

The technician will then inspect the outer covering of the condenser unit. Usually, it is filled with dust and filth and so the technician will clean the casing as well. He will also check for any rust and corrosion buildup.

Cleaning outdoor AC condenser

The HVAC technician will then proceed to thoroughly clean the main outdoor condenser. The outdoor unit commonly gets very dusty, so thorough cleaning is necessary so that the dust could not hamper air flow and affect the performance of the condenser. Condenser coils need a thorough cleaning to maximize efficiency.

Test the refrigerant levels and charge

The next step during the tune-up is the testing of the refrigerant charge. The technician will take a look if it remains at the adequate level. Any less than the required level could adversely affect the cooling performance of the HVAC system.

If the inspection results indicate low levels of refrigerant, the technician will present all the possible causes, plus the best ways to deal with the matter moving forward. Usually, low levels of refrigerant do not just entail a refrigerant top-up. It would mean repairs because most likely, the dwindling level of refrigerant is due to a leak or improper installation. It is crucial to address the root cause of the problem because if not, the refrigerant will just leak again.

 Post-tune-up process

Once the technician has concluded the tune-up procedure, he will then come up with an HVAC Health Report. This document informs the owner about the current condition of the HVAC system, and if there are areas of concern.

For areas that need repair, and mechanisms that require replacement, the technician will present to the owner all the possible options to address the problem. From there, the homeowner should decide on the best course to take according to his time and budget.

Frequently Asked Questions about HVAC Tune-up

How often should a home seek HVAC Tune-up?

For optimal HVAC performance and energy efficiency, industry experts recommend tune-ups once a year. Ideally, this should be done before summer. Seeking preventative maintenance only when the AC performs badly is both costly and inconvenient. Usually, AC technicians are busy during the summer that HVAC repairs cannot be scheduled right away. So, it is best to get a professional inspection right before peak season.

How much does AC maintenance cost? 

Air conditioning maintenance usually costs between $45 to $200 depending on the size of the HVAC system. Keep in mind that if the technician does find something wrong with the AC, he will charge a separate cost for the repair, supplies, and possible parts replacement. Usually, HVAC companies come in with a completely stocked van with supplies, equipment, and materials needed for possible repairs and parts replacement so there is no need to worry about having to wait to purchase replacement parts.

How long does an AC Tune-up take?

Air conditioner tune-ups usually take at least an hour to two hours if it is just routine preventative maintenance and tune-up. The homeowner should keep in mind that AC tune-ups that are too quick, and is concluded in less than an hour, is not thorough and are likely not to involve a thorough assessment of the general condition of the AC system.

As for legitimate tune-ups, the length of time varies with the size of the AC and the whole cooling area, the cleanliness, and the overall condition of the AC system. However, should the technician discover some issues within the HVAC system then the process will take longer especially if the homeowner gives the technician the go-signal to carry out the needed repairs or parts replacement? The repair time will then depend on the type of AC problem.

Common AC issues that routine tune-up can prevent:

AC is blowing hot air

During a routine tune-up, the HVAC technician gets to check the airflow, condition of the evaporator coils, as well as refrigerant levels. These are the usual problem areas whenever the AC seems to be blowing hot air. Whenever the AC fails to cool the house, it is most likely due to a clogged filter, filthy condenser coil, or waning levels of refrigerant. By having an annual AC tune-up, the risk of having a malfunctioning AC is substantially reduced.

Frozen AC coils

Freezing air conditioner is yet another common issue that a regular AC tune-up can prevent. When there is an airflow issue or refrigerant problem, the air conditioner tends to freeze. Usually, the refrigerant line, the indoor coils, or the condenser gets wrapped in ice. And while the mechanical system is icy, it ironically cannot cool the whole house.

Frozen AC is significantly prevented with a routine tune-up since the technician inspects the condition of the filter, the blower fan, and the refrigerant levels. If there is an issue then he will troubleshoot it right away, minimizing the possibility of a freezing air conditioner during the hot summer.

Leaking Air Conditioner

Another issue that a tune-up can prevent is an air conditioner leaking water. During a maintenance check, the technician will evaluate the condition of the condensate drain pan, and the visible part of the condensate line. Usually, when these parts are clogged, the AC will leak. For homes with an HVAC system where the furnace and the AC share the same condensate line, tune-ups are recommended twice a year.

Smelly air conditioner odor

Sometimes ACs tend to produce unpleasant odors. A routine maintenance check can significantly reduce this type of issue since it ensures that mechanisms that tend to produce a bad smell are thoroughly inspected and cleaned. Molds and mildew for instance could cause a sweaty-socks-like odor. The same goes for electrical odors.  

Thermostat issues

Most thermostat issues are preventable through a routine tune-up. One of the first things a tune-up entails is a thermostat evaluation. The technician will check whether it is optimally functioning, calibrate it accordingly, and replace the batteries. He will also check the wirings within the thermostat.

Skyrocketing utility bills due to constant short cycling

Ill-maintained air conditioners usually push electricity bills to go higher. When airflow is hampered and when the system is problematic, the tendency is for the AC to utilize more than the needed electricity or fuel to function. This is usually due to constant short cycling, that does not only contribute to rising energy costs but also wears out the AC compressor. When the AC compressor needs a replacement it would be better to replace the whole AC system altogether since compressors cost a lot. Routine maintenance makes sure that all systems are working in top condition, and that the ductwork has no damage at all.

Stay cool and comfortable

Get in touch with us at Reliable Standard Heating, Air, & Solar for thorough and professional HVAC tune-ups. We work with any type, brand, model, or air conditioner and we have helped countless homes and businesses keep their ACs in top condition. Stay cool and comfortable in your home. Get in touch with us today. 

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