Routine air conditioning maintenance has several benefits to you and your air conditioner. Some of these benefits are lower utility/energy bills, extended equipment life, untimely/unnecessary equipment failure and better indoor air quality. The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” couldn’t be any more accurate when referring to an a/c system.
One of the most commonly asked questions, concerning maintenance, is “how often should I have my a/c system checked.” All manufactures of air conditioning equipment require one routine maintenance/tune-up per year, to uphold any manufacture warranty. For most geographic locations a single maintenance is usually enough, unless you live in a hotter area of the country. If you live in a warmer climate, two maintenances (one in the spring and one in the fall) are recommended. Here in Florida we tend to use/abuse our a/c systems for much longer periods of time, some folks run there a/c systems all year round. Very similar to your vehicle needing routine oil changes, you’re a/c system needs routine maintenance to keep it running properly.
Hundreds of components are used to make an air conditioning system, but it only takes neglect of a few of these parts to make a system run poorly. The filters cleanliness, or lack thereof, is the simplest of things that needs to be maintained. Running a unit with a dirty filter, increases energy consumption and decreases your indoor air quality not to mention your comfort. Checking/Changing your filter is something you can do yourself and will be the first thing a good technician checks on a tune-up.
A clogged condensate drain line is another very simple thing, if neglected, can make your system stop running all together. Most drain lines are equipped with a float switch that will turn the entire unit off if the drain line becomes clogged. Flushing the drain line is always included in any routine maintenance call. **Helpful hint** flush your drain line with a cup of vinegar between maintenances; this will help reduce algae in the line and prevent clogs.
The Evaporator coil or cooling coil is an essential part of your system to keep clean. Even a small amount of dirt on your coil will reduce the effective cooling and efficiency of your unit, not to mention, contaminates the air inside your home. Say your coil is 25-50% clogged, this will put more strain on the compressor and may cause it to fail prematurely. Think of the compressor as the heart of an a/c system, you want to protect it, just like you would protect your own heart. (average compressor replacement costs between $1500-$2500)
Much like a dirty evaporator coil, a dirty condensing coil (the coil around the outside/condensing unit) will also make the compressor work harder, cost you more money and potentially fail, without proper maintenance.
Small parts, such as Contractors, Capacitors, hard start kits and circuit boards all need to be checked regularly. Contractors are essentially a switch that turns the condensing unit on or off. Contractors have contact points that can wear and prevent the proper amount of power to be delivered to the unit, potentially causing damage to any other component connected to it. Capacitors are passive two-terminal electrical components used to store energy in an electric field. (Kind of like a battery, without the long term storage capacity) Capacitors are one of the most common parts to weaken or fail in an a/c system. A weak capacitor can be detrimental to the motor/compressor that it is connected to. If a weak capacitor is detected during maintenance, it most definitely should be replaced. -Hard start kits are devices that give the compressor a boost of power on start up to help prevent internal compressor damage. These can also be tested to verify that they are giving the compressor the power it needs to operate. -Circuit boards control the sequence of operations of all the components. Circuit boards are very sensitive to moisture and can corrode to point of failure, in a very short time.
Most of the parts that are checked on a routine maintenance are pretty inexpensive, but if it goes unnoticed that one has weakened or failed it can cost you thousands! On average a routine maintenance/tune-up should cost between $49-$129, this is a small price to pay to have peace of mind that your system will keep you cool and comfortable, without breaking the bank.