If last year’s
record temperatures were any indication — 2012 ranks as one of the
hottest years on record — you can plan to once again crank up your
home’s air conditioner this summer.
Before doing so,
though, it’s best to have your air conditioner inspected and
serviced by a qualified heating and cooling company, or you could be
sweating out the hottest months of the year.
maintenance inspection of an air conditioner typically includes a
cleaning of the indoor and outdoor condenser coils, lubricating parts,
adjusting airflow, calibrating thermostats and inspecting ductwork.
system runs it accumulates dust and dirt in the condensing
coils," said Brian Huft of Huft Heating & Air Conditioning
Inc. in Elk Grove, Calif. "Just by removing that dust and dirt
out of the coil, helps the system do as much work as it possibly can.
Basically, as it gets dirt on it, it’s insulating that coil, so it
can’t remove as much heat as it can if it were clean."
Many heating and
cooling companies offer discounted preventative maintenance plans, in
which they’ll come out and inspect the heating and cooling equipment
twice a year; once in the spring and again in the fall. Often,
customers who sign up for these plans receive discounts on additional
services or products; as well as preferred scheduling over customers
without a preventative maintenance plan. A typical maintenance service
should cost somewhere between $70 and $140, depending on factors like
the type of equipment being serviced.
routine service, you can also prevent potential problems from becoming
bigger, more expensive issues.
these things early is really a must," said Rob McClintock of
McClintock Heating, Cooling & Electrical Inc. in Matthews, N.C.
"The more consistent, periodic maintenance a system has, the
fewer problems it will have and the much higher efficiency the system
has. To keep that peak level of efficiency that they were originally
installed at, cleaning them, calibrating them and lubricating them is
a must, or you’re going to have substantial degradation in the life
of the system."
A common repair
issue heating and cooling technicians run into are units that leak
refrigerant. R-22 refrigerant, which has been used in air conditioners
since the 1970s and is commonly known as Freon, is no longer being
manufactured as part of a government phase out. Newly manufactured air
conditioners now use R-410A refrigerant, which is not compatible with
units that use R-22. Because of this, homeowners with older units that
use R-22 and who experience a leak are paying significantly more for a
pound of refrigerant than they were just a few years ago. Prices are
ranging drastically depending on how much companies paid for their
supply, but are running as much as $200 per pound of refrigerant,
including the cost of the labor.
in the past simply paid to have the refrigerant topped off, they’re
now reconsidering their options, McClintock said. To start, if
refrigerant needs added, that means there is a leak and the leak
should be repaired. More homeowners are also looking at replacement
options. There are incentives to upgrading to more efficient units,
including a $300 federal tax credit for qualifying units installed
this year. Many local utility providers also offer credits and rebates
for upgrading to a more efficient system.
mindset is changing now to where the homeowners are strongly
considering whether to top off and look for a leak or just go ahead
and consider replacement," McClintock said. "This has
happened more this year than any year I remember."
issue that Huft said he sees is just homeowners neglecting routine
maintenance, like changing their system’s air filters per the
very, very important to (change) those filters," Huft said.
"The system won’t cool properly and it definitely won’t work
as efficiently. By keeping the system clean, the filters clean and the
outdoor coils clean, the system is able to do as much work as you need