From the Mouth of a Service Tech
Manufactures have been recommending annual maintenance on heating and cooling equipment since they have been producing these types of equipment. Yet, why are the majority of homeowners unaware of the need for this important annual check-up and tune-up? Well, this brings me to why this article is being written. As I stated before, manufacturers like Trane, Carrier, Lennox, York, American Standard, and Goodman (just to name a few) require that their equipment be maintained by a professional HVAC contractor. This goes for furnaces, as well as, air conditioners. It is stated in the warranty section of the installation, service, and maintenance manual that to keep the warranty up to date and valid, the equipment must be maintained, or the warranty will be voided. I like to use the oil change on a car analogy to explain it like this; If you purchased a brand new car and did not change the oil on the brand new engine for 15—20,000 miles, and then took it in for service because the car was having issues with the engine, the car manufacture and the dealership would not warranty the repairs because the maintenance was not performed at regular intervals.
The same requirements apply to air conditioning equipment. The parts sent in for replacement that are still under warranty, are randomly selected to be inspected and checked for defects by the engineers that designed them. And, they can be declined warranty, if the maintaining contractor does not provide maintenance documentation. Some people think it’s expensive to maintain and keep their equipment running properly. But in comparison to a $1000+ repair where warranty was declined—the price of maintenance sounds pretty inexpensive.
There are a couple other unseen things to consider when annual maintenance is neglected. I have taken quite a few classes to get certified, educated and licensed for my career path. A lot of the air conditioning classes I take, mention that if the refrigerant charge inside the air conditioning system is off by 10% it can hinder the efficiency of the unit by 30%. This “off charge” can mean too much refrigerant or not enough. It will turn a top of the line “20 SEER” air conditioning system into a “14 SEER” system; it could also turn your “14 SEER” system to a sub-par “10 SEER” system. To get a little technical, a system not charged correctly does not allow proper heat exchange through the refrigerant inside the lines. This could cause excessive amp draw on the compressor and ultimately lead to an uncomfortable situation throughout the home. A lot of people just want their AC to blow cold air. The air may still be cold coming out of the registers even if some of the vital parameters are off.
With that being said, the annual maintenance should be a pretty thorough inspection along with some minor cleaning to components. The inspection part of the annual maintenance is basically an evaluation of the AC system, as it provides a snapshot of every component and gives the contracting professional a basis (basis of what?). At that point, they can alert the homeowner to any discrepancies in amp draws on any motors, or temperatures and pressures throughout the system. As part of the yearly cleaning service I check to see if there is “water leaking around my AC.” If so, that is usually a clogged condensate drain or condensate drain trap. This condensate drain line should get thoroughly cleaned as part of the maintenance. Another way to help justify the cost of the AC annual maintenance is to think about the cost of water damage and water restoration. If a system is in an attic, on a second floor, or even next to a finished floor and that AC drain clogs up and leaks, it will create an unseen puddle that you may not notice for months. Imagine the cost of getting the water damage cleaned up, and getting the mildew under control. I would prefer reducing the chances and trying to prevent this from happening by just doing that annual maintenance.
I hope this helps some of the homeowners out there understand what “maintenance” is. It’s not just an inspection or cleaning. It’s not just a tune-up or preventative measure. It’s not just a filter change. It’s a skillfully planned service to keep the AC running efficiently, and promote the longevity of the system. You can rest assured, it will be money well spent.