Air conditioning can be a big investment, yet we often take it for granted — until it doesn’t work. That’s why it’s important to take care of your air conditioner with regular maintenance. Doing so will preserve the energy efficiency of your system and prevent unexpected service issues — both of which save money over the life of your system.
How often does an air conditioner need service?
Experts recommend annual inspection and maintenance, ideally in the spring. Over time, your A/C accumulates dust and dirt in its filters, coils, and fins, which can result in a loss of up to 5 percent of its operating efficiency each year.
Professional service and cleaning once a year accomplishes several things:
- prevents any negative surprises when you turn on your air conditioner for the first time at the start of the season
- reduces the chance of a breakdown and the associated inconvenience and expense
- prevents small, easy-to-fix problems from turning into big, expensive repairs
- maximizes your air conditioner’s efficiency
- extends the life of your air conditioner
Replace the air filter
As important as annual service by a professional is, the most important maintenance task is one you can do yourself. Changing the air filter every 3 months will help maintain your system’s efficiency. Compared to a clogged, dirty filter, a clean filter can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5 to 15 percent (source: energy.gov). Clean filters are also necessary for maintaining good indoor air quality.
What to expect from professional preventive maintenance
Many heating and cooling companies offer low-priced, preventive maintenance. The lowest offer is not always the best. Make sure you hire a well-trained technician that includes the following in their maintenance service:
- Check for correct amount of refrigerant
- Test for refrigerant leaks using a leak detector
- Capture any refrigerant that must be evacuated from the system, instead of illegally releasing it to the atmosphere
- Check for and seal duct leakage in central systems
- Measure airflow through the evaporator coil
- Verify the correct electric control sequence and make sure that the heating system and cooling system cannot operate simultaneously
- Inspect electric terminals, clean and tighten connections and apply a non-conductive coating if necessary
- Oil motors and check belts for tightness and wear
- Check the accuracy of the thermostat