Is an AC Tune Up Really Necessary?

by forceda on March 23, 2019

As we move into the warmer months you may be asking yourself, “Is an AC tune up really necessary?” It’s a common question that we frequently hear, and the
short answer is “yes”, and here’s why.

  • Your AC unit is a major investment. Annual AC tune ups can add years to your unit’s life.
  • Your family’s safety and comfort are important – especially when the mercury climbs into the triple digits in July and August. An AC tune up can ensure that your unit is up to the task, and can help you avoid the inconvenience and added cost of an emergency repair.
  • Electricity costs are on the rise. Making sure your unit is working at peak efficiency can keep you from paying more than you should on cooling costs.

What are the Benefits of an Annual AC Tune Up?

The truth is, annual AC tune ups are a very cost-effective way to ensure that your AC unit is working at peak efficiency, which will extend the life of your unit, and help control your monthly utility costs.

Annual tune ups are also a great way to identify and fix small issues before they turn into larger, costlier problems. For example, a clogged AC condensate drain is easy to repair if the problem is detected early on, however, over time it can lead to other problems including mold growth, damaged sheetrock, and corrosion of your home’s HVAC system. These problems can result in repairs that are far more expensive than the cost of an AC tune up.

What’s the Difference Between an AC Tune Up and an AC Inspection?

Different companies use different terms, but there is really no difference between an AC tune up and an AC inspection. Both of these services accomplish the same goals – to make sure your AC unit is in proper working condition, and identify potential problems that could be negatively affecting your unit’s efficiency.

What’s Included in an AC Tune Up?

The answer to this question depends largely on the company doing the tune up. As with most things in life, when it comes to AC tune ups – you usually get what you pay for. What might seem like a “great deal” may actually end up costing you more in the long run.

Some AC repair companies in the Dallas / Fort Worth area offer “16-point AC tune ups” or “24-point AC inspections”, without disclosing exactly what those “points” are. Any reputable AC repair company will tell you exactly what is included in their AC tune up service. A thorough AC tune up should include the following:

  • Inspect blower and components
  • Examine voltage and amperage
  • Check for proper refrigerant level
  • Lubricate all moving mechanical parts
  • Check operating temperatures
  • Inspect all electrical connections
  • Inspect the main drain line
  • Examine all safety controls
  • Check outside condensing coil
  • Inspect all filters
  • Inspect all breakers and fuses
  • Check the compressor fan and blower motor
  • Inspect refrigerant lines
  • Inspect drain pump
  • Calibrate the thermostat
  • Inspect auxiliary drain pan

How Often Should I Have an AC Tune Up?

Today’s heating and air conditioning units are highly sophisticated systems that will deliver years of reliable service, provided they’re properly maintained. Most manufacturers recommend that you have your AC and heating units tuned up on an annual basis as a way to maximize the performance and life of your AC unit. In fact, some manufacturers require that you have your unit inspected annually as part of their warranty programs.

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As the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, you may be starting to think about turning on your furnace for the first time this fall. While the weather’s still warm, prepare for a safe and comfortable autumn and winter by following these steps before you turn on your furnace.

Schedule Preventive Maintenance

For safety’s sake, you must have preventive maintenance performed on your HVAC system in the fall before you turn on your furnace. (For best performance year-round, you should have air conditioner maintenance performed in the spring as well.) This maintenance should include checking for rust and corrosion, cleaning the burners, and especially looking for any cracks in the heat exchanger. Even tiny cracks in the heat exchanger can allow poisonous carbon monoxide gas to leak into your home, endangering your family.

Cleaning the burners and checking that they’re lighting properly will improve safety and also the performance of your furnace. That way when that first really cold night comes, you can feel confident that your heat will come on and work as efficiently as possible.

Prepare Your Carbon Monoxide Detectors

When a furnace burns oil or natural gas to create heat, it produces carbon monoxide gas as a by-product. During normal operation, that carbon monoxide should be vented out of your home. However, cracks in the heat exchanger, blockages in the vent, and other issues can cause that carbon monoxide to leak into your home instead. According to the CDC, over 400 Americans die from carbon monoxide poisoning every year, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized for it. That’s why it’s absolutely necessary for any home with a furnace to have carbon monoxide detectors.

You should install a carbon monoxide detector near each sleeping area. Before turning on your furnace in the fall, replace the batteries in your detectors and test each one to make sure that it’s still working. Carbon monoxide detectors generally last about five to seven years, so if your detectors are five years old or older, you might want to go ahead and replace them.

Clear the Area Around Your Furnace

If your furnace is located outside, check that shrubs, trees, and other plants haven’t grown up around it during the summer. These can obstruct airflow and potentially pose a fire hazard. You should have at least four feet of clearance on all sides.

If your furnace is located inside—for instance, in your garage—clear away any clutter around it. And be particularly mindful of any flammable items or chemicals. Store them well away from your furnace to avoid a major fire hazard.

Let the Air Flow

Before turning on your furnace, it’s also important to make sure that air will be able to flow freely through the system. Replace your intake air filter—and remember to continue replacing it regularly all year long. Once a month is a good schedule for most households.

Also make sure that the return and supply vents aren’t obstructed by furniture, curtains, rugs, or other items. Don’t close registers to avoid heating rooms—this can actually cause air pressure problems in your system as a whole.

Test Your Thermostat

Once your furnace has been inspected, your carbon monoxide detectors are prepped, the area around it is clear, and the air is ready to flow, it’s time to try turning it on—before you need it! Set the temperature a couple of degrees higher than the current inside temperature, then switch the furnace on from the thermostat and see if it comes on.

If it does come on and runs until reaching the set temperature, congratulations, your furnace is ready for the winter! However, if it doesn’t come on, it may simply be a problem with your thermostat. Try changing the thermostat batteries first. If that doesn’t work, it may be time to get a new thermostat. You may want to consider upgrading to a programmable smart thermostat that can help you save energy while keeping your home comfortable.

Replace an Older Furnace with a New High-Efficiency Model

If your furnace is more than fifteen years old, you might want to consider replacing it this fall with a new, high-efficiency model. Fall and spring are the slow seasons for the HVAC industry, which means it’s the best time of year to replace your unit. It’ll be easier to schedule the replacement, and sometimes HVAC installers and manufacturers will offer discounts or rebates.

Older furnaces generally have an AFUE rating of 56-70%. That means they only convert 56-70% of the energy they consume into heat. The rest is wasted. Newer high-efficiency furnaces, on the other hand, have AFUE ratings of 90-98%. That can mean big savings on your energy bills. Replace your older furnace before it’s time to turn it on, and you can enjoy those savings all winter long.

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