Every summer, air conditioning companies are overwhelmed with calls from homeowners needing service for their A/C units that are not cooling well or have broken down altogether. The primary causes of these A/C units giving out are component wear and degradation due to age and normal wear and tear from use as well as the lack of use. Often hastening the wear and tear and causing premature aging are dirt, sand, and insects that get into the system’s electrical components and plug the condenser coil. The condenser coil, located in the outdoor unit and whose job it is to transfer the heat from your home to the outside, can reduce your system’s cooling performance. When the coil gets a buildup of dirt and sand in it, it restricts the airflow across the coil, which results in an increase in the refrigerant or Freon’s pressure, much like clogged arteries raise our blood pressure. Like high blood pressure, high HVAC system pressure can also have catastrophic consequences, some of which are leaks that develop in the copper tubing of the coils and lines running between the indoor and outdoor unit. Additionally, electrical components and motors must work harder and can fail prematurely. In most cases, before any failures occur, the systems’ ability to cool is hampered, and you may notice an uptick in your electric bill, your A/C running longer, and a home that is not as comfortable as it once was.
Spring and summer, when the outside temperature increases, the demand placed on air conditioners is increased, as compared to the cooler months. An air conditioner that seems to be cooling satisfactorily in milder temperatures will show its true colors when the heat is on. In most cases, the systems were already performing poorly, but not having to work as hard, just like the increased demand on the human body when active. In cool weather, the body performs better versus how it performs doing the same activity at high temperatures; what might be a mild run in warm temperatures becomes a strenuous workout on a hot day. Also, consider that an air-conditioning system is a mechanical device and they can break down at any time. However, like any mechanical piece of equipment, there are usually signs of a possible problem before the problem occurs, and a trained professional with the proper diagnostic tools can recognize the signs and symptoms on a preventative maintenance performance tune up, giving you a forewarning, as well as solutions to prevent a larger problem.
The most important thing you can do to prevent unwanted and costly repairs and loss of cooling during the hot summer months in the Coachella Valley is to have regular maintenance and cleaning of your HVAC systems performed. A proper seasonal tune-up includes inspecting, testing, and cleaning all of the components of your A/C system, which includes the electrical system and refrigerant charge. Also, an important part of the maintenance is thoroughly cleaning the condenser coil and flushing your condensate line to ensure it is not blocked, which can result in a backup and possible water damage to your home. A qualified HVAC contractor should inform you of any components that are operating outside of manufacturer’s specifications and provide solutions to address and correct the issue. Many times, components that are running outside of the manufacturer’s specifications while operating are not performing as designed. Addressing these matters immediately can prevent larger and more expensive repairs down the road, not to mention avoiding the inconvenience of being without cool, comfortable air inside when we are experiencing triple-digit heat outside.
Another reason to have HVAC system maintenance performed is if your system is still under a manufacturer’s warranty they require yearly system inspections and maintenance to keep your warranty valid. Also, consider that if your home’s HVAC system is ten years or newer, some manufacturers provide a 10-year parts warranty, and most offer at least five years. Identifying parts that may be failing while still under the manufacturer’s warranty is ideal and can be significantly cost-saving to you. Also, since a good system tune-up includes inspecting and servicing the components that make up your HVAC system, such as the duct work, filtration, and thermostat issues (poor airflow, rooms that are too hot or cold, and allergies and respiratory problems aggravated by inadequate filtration) can be identified. As far as thermostats go, if you do not have a Wi-Fi thermostat, now would be an excellent time to have one installed. There is a great benefit to being able to adjust your thermostat while away, especially if your desert home is your second home or you travel a lot.
If you have never had maintenance on your HVAC system or if it has been a while, there are a few important things to make sure of when selecting a HVAC contractor.
- Verify that the contractor is a licensed C20 contractor and check the CSLB website to make sure they do not have any violations and have the proper insurance, such as liability and workers comp insurance.
- Make sure the contractor follows ACCA (Air Conditioning Contractors of America) Standard 4 which outlines the maintenance procedures of residential HVAC systems.
- Choose a company that background checks and participates in pre-hire and random drug testing. You are inviting someone into your home who is going to be working on an expensive piece of equipment your family depends on for comfort and safe operation.
- Make sure the contractor’s technicians use digital refrigerant gauges. Today’s equipment is very sophisticated, and precise measurements are critical to performing proper maintenance.
- Verify that the contractor includes in its HVAC maintenance a measurement of static pressure. Static pressure measures the efficiency of the air moving through the system, similar to water pressure in a hose or pipe. High static pressure can cause many problems for a system, and sometimes there is a solution to fix it quickly.
- Choose a contractor that has been in business in the desert for many years, at least ten. Approximately 20 % of HVAC contractors across the industry fail each year, and 70% of new HVAC businesses fail in their first year.
- Make sure the contractor offers a maintenance plan that includes yearly heating and cooling maintenance as well as discounts and other benefits for members. These programs can provide significant savings as well as other benefits like priority service. For a small monthly investment, you can make sure your systems are covered year-round.
- The contractor you choose should offer industry-best warranties on repairs. At a minimum, one-year parts and labor should be offered. At least one company offers three- or five-year parts and labor in the desert.
- Call contractors on the weekends and later at night, and make sure they are available when you need them and have the resources to provide not only maintenance but also service when needed, especially warranty work for repairs they perform.
Make sure you are provided with a full report on your A/C system with a list of the readings of the components tested, findings, and recommendations if any.
Remember, a system tune-up does not have to occur before the warm weather, and a benefit to doing it now is you can get a more accurate reading of your system’s performance when tested in the conditions it is designed to operate in when cooling. If you have not had your system maintained yet, it is not too late to be proactive and avoid the hassle of a broken system later down the road.