What Is an AC Tune-Up and Is It Necessary?

Brionna Farney
Written by Brionna Farney
Updated April 10, 2023
Woman using home AC unit
Photo: Fizkes / Adobe Stock


  • An annual tune-up of your home’s AC system can extend its life by several years.

  • An AC tune-up can save you up to 15% on monthly energy bills.

  • Spring is the best time to perform AC maintenance before usage increases during the summer.

  • A well-cared-for AC unit will last about 15 years.

  • A tune-up will cost about $70 to $100, and a replacement AC unit will cost about $5,000.

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If you’ve ever experienced a heat wave, you might remember staying inside your air-conditioned house, eating popsicles, and watching movies. But what if your air conditioner had broken down, leaving you doomed to grin and bear it through triple-digit temperatures?

To avoid that kind of AC emergency, HVAC professionals recommend servicing your AC unit annually. A simple, annual AC tune-up can keep your air conditioner functioning properly, especially during the summer heat.

What Is an AC Tune-Up?

During a maintenance tune-up, a local air conditioning repair pro will conduct a general inspection of your HVAC system, looking at both the indoor and outdoor components of your unit, such as the motors and belts. You can expect an HVAC technician to perform the following tasks during an AC tune-up:

  • Check for dirty or loose electrical connections, leaks, or broken safety features

  • Replace fiberglass, polyester, HEPA, or UV air filter 

  • Confirm that appropriate refrigerant levels are present 

  • Ensure the thermostat is working properly

  • Measure the coolant levels, adding more if necessary

  • Look for any blockages in the air ducts, removing if necessary

  • Clean dirt, pet hair, excess dust, or other debris out of the evaporator and the condenser coils

  • Operation test to make sure it is functioning correctly

What Are the Benefits of an AC Tune-Up?

Yearly tune-ups will help prolong the life of your AC unit and save you money on your utility bills. Here are some of the other benefits to maintaining your AC system: 

Better Energy Efficiency

Regular tune-ups will ensure your unit is working to its maximum potential, using the least amount of energy necessary to cool your home.

Lower Energy Bills

When your unit is in tip-top shape, it’s using the least amount of energy necessary to cool your home, which means that you’ll likely see a drop in your energy bills.

Uniform Cooling

An AC that’s in good condition should cool your home evenly. Regular tune-ups will ensure you don’t have areas in your house where it’s unexpectedly or unpleasantly hotter or colder than others.

Prevents Major Damage

By having an HVAC technician regularly check for minor damage, you can prevent bigger problems from developing. Not only do regular tune-ups save you from an AC breakdown, but they will also help you save money on repairs down the line.

Longer Lifespan

Regular maintenance will prolong the life of your machine, plain and simple. With yearly tune-ups, you’ll catch problems early and be able to diagnose them quickly. Don’t forget: A well-cared-for AC unit can last up to 15 years.

How Often Should I Get an AC Tune-Up?

Most experts recommend getting an AC tune-up at least once per year. In nearly all cases, you should schedule the tune-up for the springtime right before the summer season, when you will begin to use your AC system regularly. Why service an air conditioner every year? So the technician can clean the unit and fix any wear and tear that may cause problems during the hot summer months. Additionally, an annual service will help extend your AC system's longevity.

If an air conditioning unit goes unchecked for multiple years, the cost of repairs can be much more expensive than if you were to keep up with the maintenance each year. HVAC professionals can catch issues early on. If you live in a hot and humid climate where you rely heavily on your AC, you might increase how often you service your air conditioner to twice per year for that extra peace of mind.

Signs It’s Time for an AC Tune-Up

While you should have a recurring annual tune-up scheduled for your AC unit, other signs suggest your AC should be checked out, such as:

  • You receive an unexpectedly high energy bill

  • Your AC is blowing hot air 

  • There is less airflow from your vents 

  • You notice condensation on your AC unit

  • Your indoor air temperature is not reaching the temperature set on your thermostat

  • Your AC unit is constantly running or repeatedly turns on and off

  • You hear unfamiliar noises coming from the unit

  • The humidity in your home is higher than normal

This is not an extensive list of signs that it’s time for an AC tune-up. If anything feels off about your AC system, do not hesitate to contact an HVAC repair pro in your area. 

How Much Does an AC Tune-Up Cost?

Professional checking ac unit to repair it
Photo: Joyfotoliakid / Adobe Stock

On average, AC tune-ups cost anywhere from $75 to $200. Extended service, which will include both the cooling and heating systems, can run as high as $500. If there are repairs that need to be done, expect to pay $50 to $150 per hour for an HVAC technician. 

If your refrigerant needs to be replaced, you’ll spend $100 to $350 for a refill. All of the other maintenance should be included in the flat rate provided by the HVAC company, but it’s worth asking them for a full run-down of what their tune-up service encompasses.

Tips to Maintain Your AC Unit

Person replacing ac unit air filter
Photo: Michael O’Keene / Adobe Stock

Aside from hiring a professional to perform an annual AC tune-up, there are a few tasks you can complete to extend the life of your AC unit. 

Change the Filter

You should check and replace the AC unit’s filter once per month. Since it keeps the airflow unobstructed, a clean filter helps the unit run more efficiently and can save you money on your energy bill. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, swapping a dirty filter out for a new, clean one can lower your energy consumption by 5% to 15%.

Clean the Coils

Using a garden hose and a broom, clear your outdoor AC unit of leaves or other debris that could obstruct the coils and fins. Blocked coils and fins can cause higher energy consumption and may cause the machine to break down.

Trim Nearby Shrubs

To make leaf clean-up easier, trim any adjacent shrubs to prevent them from obstructing the unit, which can restrict the airflow and cause the unit to overwork, leading to a future breakdown.

Check Your Dryer Vent

To ensure that dryer lint cannot get inside your AC unit and restrict the airflow, note where your dryer vents, and make sure it doesn’t angle toward your AC unit. Duct vents should be at least 6 feet away from the AC unit.

If you suspect your vents are sending lint into your AC unit, consider installing an air deflector to force the debris in another direction or contacting an HVAC professional for advice.

Raise the Temperature

When you know you will be out of the house for a while, raise the temperature on your thermostat by 7 to 10 degrees. This tactic allows your unit to take a break and will ultimately prolong its life. 

In addition, keeping the AC unit on at a more regular temperature can reduce the humidity in your home, which could cause damage to wood flooring and furniture. Several new AC models allow you to program your schedule into the unit so your house will remain at a comfortable temperature when you’re in it and give itself a break when you’re not. 

Seal Any Openings

Make sure all of your windows and doors are fully sealed, with no gaps or openings. Check your ductwork, too, and ensure it’s sealed correctly. Proper sealing guarantees that cool air won’t escape from your house, helping your unit to expend as little energy as possible to keep your house nice and cool. 

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