This is one of the most common questions we get from our customers. “After all,” they say, “we’re in the foothills of the Rockies, and we don’t use our air conditioner that often.”
As a general rule, we recommend yearly tune ups for a number of reasons. Some homeowners, however, are really diligent about maintenance and can get away with every few years (more on that below).
Here are the three factors that will help you decide how often you require a service check for your cooling system.
1. Can You Do Basic Upkeep?
Many homeowners don’t look after their air conditioners. If you’re too busy to take the following steps, it’s advisable to get a professional to take care of them for you:
- Spring cleaning. Every spring, the outdoor unit (AKA condenser) needs to have any leaves, sticks and dirt cleaned from the outside of the grille. Allowing debris to accumulate will force your air conditioner to work harder, resulting in reduced efficiency and higher electricity bills. It can also shorten the lifespan of your unit.
- Monthly filter checks and changes. Every month you should be checking the filter on your indoor unit. Don’t wait until the filter is caked with dust to change or clean it – a dirty filter can reduce efficiency by 5% to 15%.
- Monthly landscaping check. As summer progresses and shrubs and trees grow, they can crowd your outdoor unit. You should keep at least 2 feet of empty space around the condenser to allow heat to dissipate more easily. You can learn more about how to choose the right location for your air conditioner here.
- Fall preparation. Before the snow flies, you should give your condenser a final tidy and then protect it with a plastic cover. You’d be surprised at how many people don’t bother with this step, but it really helps.
We cannot emphasize enough how important these steps are to the overall efficiency, reliability and longevity of your system.
2. How Old is Your Air Conditioner?
Most air conditioners these days come with a pretty good warranty, but once your system is past warranty key parts can begin to fail. But if your system is basically working, you may not notice it’s a little sluggish until too late.
One part that’s failing can put more strain on others that connect to it, which can lead to bigger problems that are more expensive to fix.
3. How Important is Your Air Conditioner?
Some people handle heat well, and are happy cooling off with a cold drink on a hot day. Others, however, seem to be more bothered by high temperatures, becoming groggy, grumpy, or unable to get a good night’s sleep. Some seniors lose their natural ability to cool down, and count on air conditioning more.
If you work from home, the ability to keep a clear head is extremely important. The last thing you need when you’re on a deadline is to be fighting the heat as well. If you’re self-employed or working remotely to get something done, air conditioning is no longer a luxury.
If you or someone in your family needs an AC to keep cool, it makes sense to get regular check ups. You’ll catch those problems before they become a breakdown. Like most machines, the harder they have to work (like on those really hot days) the more likely they are to break down.
Long Term Benefits
Most of the parts of a central air conditioner can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to fix. In fact, some are so expensive that it makes more sense to put the money into a new system. Tune ups do cost money, but when weighed against the expense of repairs they’re an easy win.
Trying to keep cool? Check out some of our other guides: