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What Is AC Maintenance and How Often Is It Needed?

July 18, 2020

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If you’ve been putting off residential AC maintenance, now is the time to call an air conditioner repair or HVAC company near you! Regular air conditioning tune-ups are essential for ensuring your system cycles on as needed and is running as efficiently as possible.

Regular AC maintenance typically includes:

  • Cleaning the compressor housing and all its inside parts
  • Oiling bearings
  • Replacing worn belts
  • Checking the condensation drain hose for blockages
  • Cleaning the fins around the compressor housing
  • Calibrating the home’s thermostat
  • Checking for refrigerant leaks; repairing those leaks and recharging the refrigerant as needed

An air conditioner maintenance contractor might also conduct other checks and repairs as needed, depending on the HVAC model, levels of wear and tear, and the like. They might also note needed fixes to a homeowner, such as building a blind around the exterior compressor housing to protect it from dirt and debris.

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An air conditioning tune-up is an excellent choice for keeping that unit in good condition and reducing your utility bills. Before you go another month or, worse yet, another year without scheduling HVAC maintenance for your home, note a few additional details about residential air conditioning maintenance. You can then discuss your options with an AC repair technician near you, and make the best decision for ensuring your comfort during summer months.

What Is Included in Residential AC Maintenance?

Regular AC maintenance involves more than just a general cleaning, although removing dirt, dust, and other debris from in and around an air conditioner compressor is vital! Moving parts always collect and trap dirt and grime, which then slows down those parts and results in increased wear and tear. Along with a thorough cleaning, note what else is typically involved in a professional air conditioner tune-up:

  • Bearings allow moving parts to operate freely, especially those that move in opposite direction from one another. Bearings need a bit of oil to spin and avoid friction. Regular AC maintenance includes ensuring bearings are cleaned and oiled as needed.
  • Replacing worn belts reduces wear and tear on moving parts. Installing new belts also means little to no risk of those belts snapping while the AC is in use! When a belt snaps or becomes so worn that it doesn’t function properly, certain moving parts then seize up and your air conditioner might not cycle on or might switch on but not blow cold air through the home.
  • As an AC operates, it creates condensation. That condensation is directed away from the unit through a drain hose. If that drain hose becomes blocked, condensation backs up to the unit and causes water damage. During an AC tune-up, your contractor should check the hose for blockage and clean it as needed. He or she might also check for kinks, dents, holes, and other damage, and replace the hose if needed.
  • As an AC compressor works, it generates heat; proper airflow around that unit keeps it cool and reduces wear and tear. A buildup of leaves, twigs, grass clippings, and other debris block airflow and trap that heat in the unit. An AC tune-up typically includes cleaning that housing unit and repairing bent fins, ensuring proper airflow.
  • If there is a tremendous debris buildup outside your unit’s compressor housing, your air conditioning technician might also recommend building a blind, or a type of barrier. This will keep the unit free of debris and operating as it should.
  • Your home’s HVAC unit cycles on and off as signaled by the home’s thermostat. Over time, the thermostat might suffer wear and tear so that it cannot read interior temperatures correctly, causing the AC to cycle on or off more often or sooner than it should. An AC tune-up typically includes calibrating the thermostat to ensure it reads temperatures correctly!
  • Air conditioner refrigerant doesn’t “burn off” or otherwise evaporate; it should last indefinitely. However, an AC technician will check its levels as inadequate amounts of refrigerant might indicate hose damage and a leak.
  • Most AC maintenance also includes a furnace filter check and replacement, as needed, and might also include checking ductwork for leaks and ensuring room vents are clean and open and close freely.

How Often Should You Schedule AC Maintenance?

Most homeowners might consider scheduling an air conditioning tune-up two years after purchasing a new unit, and then every two years after that until the system is about five or six years old. You’re your home’s air conditioner reaches about five or six years old, it’s good to schedule annual AC maintenance and inspections.

This schedule can vary, of course; for example, if you purchased a very cheap, off-brand AC model, you might schedule an annual inspection and maintenance every year rather than waiting those two years. A cheaper model might mean low-quality parts that wear out sooner rather than later, so it’s good to have an AC technician inspect that unit annually after its purchase.

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Also, if you live in a tropical or overly warm environment, consider an annual AC tune-up. Your home’s air conditioner is likely to cycle on more often, and stay on longer throughout the day if you live in a hot climate, so consider annual tune-ups to offset that added wear and tear!

If you have purchased a new air conditioner or entire HVAC unit, you might also note if there are requirements in place to keep its warranty valid. Some AC companies require annual inspections and maintenance; without following that schedule, you might then need to pay for repairs and replacement parts that would have otherwise been covered by the manufacturer’s warranty!

Signs of Needed AC Repair, and What Might Be Wrong With Your System!

Regular AC maintenance is an excellent option for ensuring your home’s HVAC system is always in good working order, but you will still face needed air conditioner repairs on occasion. If your home’s AC unit cycles on and blows lukewarm air throughout the home, this might indicate compressor damage and a refrigerant leak. The compressor might also be overheating, or the home’s ductwork might be so dirty that cool air heats up before it reaches the home’s vents.

Warm air or air that feels dusty and downright unpleasant might also mean that it’s time to change the home’s furnace filter! Cool air is pushed through that filter and then all the ducts in the home; when the filter is dirty and clogged, cool air becomes warm or it might not reach all areas of the home.

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If the AC unit cycles on but you notice a cold, clammy feeling in the home rather than a cool and comfortable environment, the air conditioner might be cycling off too quickly. A home’s air conditioner is meant to operate long enough to remove humidity, not just heat; if it shuts off too quickly, the home might feel cool but damp. In this case, the thermostat might need recalibrating or the unit might even be too big and powerful for the home!

When an air conditioner doesn’t cycle on at all, this can indicate an electrical or wiring issue. The motor might also be worn out and need replacing. In some cases, there might be something stuck inside the housing unit for the compressor. A non-functioning AC might even be as simple as a blown circuit! Check the housing unit and home’s circuit panel before calling an air conditioning repair technician in this case.

How to Avoid Otherwise Unnecessary AC Repair Costs

How a homeowner maintains their air conditioner has a great impact on its overall longevity. As with car maintenance, taking good care of a home’s HVAC unit can help avoid otherwise unnecessary repair costs and early breakdown! One vital tip is to change the home’s furnace filter often, as a clean filter traps the most dirt and dust, allowing for easier air circulation around the home and less wear and tear on the home’s air conditioner.

A homeowner should also ensure that the compressor housing is free of dust, dirt, leaves, and other debris. This is especially important if you don’t use a bagged lawnmower and tend to blow grass clippings all over that unit, or if you live in an area with strong storms and lots of snow. Storms and snowfall tend to deposit debris against an air conditioner housing, cutting off airflow.

As said, building a blind or barrier of some sort helps keep that compressor protected. If you do build a barrier, ensure that it’s not so close to the housing unit or enclosed that it restricts airflow. Fresh air keeps the compressor cool, reducing wear and tear and eliminating otherwise unnecessary air conditioning repair costs.

Related Questions

Can you DIY AC maintenance?

A homeowner might clean a compressor housing unit, both inside and out, and change their home’s furnace filter. However, an AC repair technician provides added services typically outside the area of expertise of most homeowners, including oiling the bearings, checking belts for wear, and the like. To ensure your AC is in good condition, rely on professional AC maintenance as needed.

How much does AC maintenance cost?

Most homeowners might pay anywhere from $75 to $250 for standard AC maintenance. Before you decide to avoid those costs, however, note that regular air conditioner tune-ups are typically far cheaper than AC repairs! Maintenance also ensures your HVAC unit is running optimally, reducing your energy costs.


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