The importance of an annual AC tune-up
If you want to stay relaxed and cool in your home this summer without worrying about your energy bills going through the roof, keeping your air conditioning unit tuned up is a good place to start.
A spring checkup of your home’s A/C system can extend its life by several years, as well as save you up to 15 percent a month on your energy bills. That will more than pay for the estimated $70 to $100 yearly maintenance expense – and the annual visit from your HVAC pro can help you find small problems before they grow into bigger, more costly ones.
“I look at it like maintaining a car. It’s good to have the oil changed and the tires rotated. It will definitely lead to a longer life,” said Chad Peterman, owner of Indianapolis-based Peterman Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, Inc. “Anyone who has spent a lot of money on a new unit should be looking at it as an investment. During the general maintenance, we check the functionality. We’re also going to clean the (condenser) coil; we make sure it’s clean and free of debris. We’ll check how well the system is working and see if there’s an improper connection and make sure there’s no leak.”
A well-looked-after unit can last up to 15 years, compared to seven years for ones that are left ignored. Left unserviced, units can lose up to five percent of their efficiency each year, leading to a new A/C system that can cost about $5,000 to replace.
Homeowners can play their part by changing the filters on their heating, ventilation and cooling system four times a year to keep it running smoothly and improving their home’s airflow.
“It tends to lose capacity in the summer if you don’t maintain it,” said Aaron York, vice president of operations for Indianapolis-based Aaron York’s Quality Air. “It balances out. The cost of maintenance ends up being offset by the reduction in cost of energy that you will save; and by expensive repairs.”
One of the most expensive repairs is a refrigerant leak. The common refrigerant, R-22, also known as Freon, is in the process of a mandatory government phase out, resulting in rising prices to replace it. R-22 has been replaced by R-410A, a more environmentally friendly refrigerant, which cannot be used in the older units. People with units that use R-22 and experience a leak will be paying significantly more. Because of this, if you have a leak, it could be worth investing in a new unit.
“Absolutely, the cost of R-22 the last two years has increased 60 to 70 percent,” York said. “It’s really expensive to repair. If it becomes too costly to repair, it’s probably time to put that money toward a new A/C unit.”
Homeowners are encouraged to get multiple opinions when repairing or replacing an air conditioning system, as these units can last up to 15 years, if well maintained.
“We recommend hiring a licensed company to come and maintain it,” York said. “It is important to find someone that you can trust and rely on. Look at their record. If you’re uncomfortable with what they’ve told you, it’s always a good idea to get a second opinion.”
York added that some warranty companies only honor contracts if licensed professionals do the work.
Peterman, meanwhile, said spring is the best time to get the unit tuned up before the summer heat comes in.
“The key to (prolonging the life of) a new, high-efficiency A/C is maintaining it,” Peterman said. “It’s only as good as it is maintained.”
Editor's note: This article was originally published in April 2013.