HVAC Companies Keep A/C Units Humming

Gretchen Becker
Written by Gretchen Becker
Updated July 28, 2015
HVAC installers
Regular inspections and maintenance are crucial to a smoothly functioning A/C. (Photo by Summer Galyan)

Technicians say annual maintenance remains the best prevention for poor air conditioner performance.

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HVAC maintenance plans

Annual HVAC contracts cost between $140 and $160 and usually include inspections for both heating and cooling and discounts on service and parts.

Stay cool as a cucumber this summer with a well-maintained air conditioner. Technicians from HVAC companies compare keeping your A/C unit running smoothly to getting an oil change in your car, and they agree that scheduling an annual tune-up remains the best way to keep it at peak performance during the scorching summer months.

“Lack of maintenance is one of the biggest things we see,” says Tim Adams, service manager at Standard Heating & Air Conditioning in Minneapolis.

Most heating and A/C companies offer annual HVAC maintenance plans, which typically range from $140 to $160 for both heat and cooling, plus give a discount on parts and priority service for plan participants. A/C tune-ups ideally happen when it’s warm enough to test the system, but not scorching.

“Air conditioners are wonderful if you maintain them and keep them clean,” Adams says. “You don’t want to be the person who waited. You know the heat’s going to come. Plan ahead.”

RELATED: 9 Tips for Best A/C Performance

Outdoor A/C units
Keep your outdoor A/C unit clear of dog hair, dirt and debris. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member James H., Bellaire, Texas)

Common HVAC problems

Becky Glynn of San Antonio bought a $55 Angie’s List Big Deal for an A/C tune-up, and then signed up for annual maintenance with Tasco Air Conditioning in San Antonio. “I use the heck out of my A/C, and it starts usually in March,” Glynn says. “I don’t want my A/C to conk out.”

RELATED: Price Guide - New Heating and Cooling Systems

During the tune-up, the Tasco HVAC technician also discussed improving the home’s duct work to circulate air more evenly and suggested Glynn use her programmable thermostat for more energy efficiency. “He talked to me about redoing my ducts because the back side of my house doesn’t get as cool as we’d like it to,” she says. “We haven’t done that yet, but we need to.”

When Austin Knight responds to service calls, he says a shorted capacitor tops the list of the most common A/C repairs that he encounters as a home comfort designer at Aire Serve of the Woodlands in Conroe, Texas.

“There’s not much you can do, rather than buying a quality American-made part,” he says. “The [American capacitors] are built better, and they last longer.” Knight says he charges an $89 service call per visit, or $159 for two visits as part of the biannual maintenance plan.

Other problems that Adams repairs frequently include: a failed relay, which opens and closes frequently as the system turns on and off; low refrigerant from a system leak; worn-out electrical components; and inefficient airflow. “The air conditioning might be running [too much], or you might not be cool or reaching the temperature setting,” he says.

RELATED: Troubleshooting common A/C problems

Tips to keep your A/C running

To keep your A/C system running more efficiently, Knight suggests:

• Replacing analog thermostats with digital ones.

Changing filters every one to three months.

• Clearing the outside unit of dirt, pet hair and plant materials.

* Keeping all vents clear of obstruction, such as furniture or rugs.

Individual costs for these common repairs run about $215 for a capacitor, $225 for a relay, and $220 for a digital thermostat installation. Homeowners can reduce the cost by scheduling more than one fix at a time or participating in the service plan, Knight says.

If you feel like you’re in the desert instead of the tundra when your A/C runs, a technician can outline costs to help you decide whether repairing or replacing your A/C makes more sense. An average HVAC unit typically lasts 15 to 20 years, says Curt Hicks, service manager at Quality Control Plumbing Heating & Air in Indianapolis.

“Anything can be made to work, but it’s not as efficient, and it’s going to break down again, and it will be out of warranty,” Hicks says. “I don’t push anybody. I’ll tell them my honest opinion. Some 20-year-old units don’t have any problems. [But] everything breaks at some point, and I want that to be in the back of their mind.”

RELATED: Angie's List Guide to Hiring an HVAC Service

What do you do to keep your A/C humming in the summer months? Tell us abour your experiences in the comments below. 

Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted May 22, 2014. 

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