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It is common knowledge that we can make the choice to pay our auto mechanics a small fee now for a routine maintenance service, or eventually pay them a lot later for a major repair. It is the same concept that holds true for your air conditioner or heat pump. Unfortunately by not servicing your air conditioner or heat pump on a regular basis, you will certainly find yourself not only uncomfortable in the hot summer, Philadelphia, Montgomery and Berks County, PA nights, but also scrambling to pay for a whole new AC system.

In this article the term air conditioner will apply to a heat pump or a standard air conditioner. Both benefit equally from annual service tune-ups.

An air conditioner is a very rugged piece of equipment. It is engineered and made to withstand any and all hard work and keep on running. This is fantastic in most ways, the only downfall is that it can lead to complacency about maintenance. Again, like a car, air conditioners need regular tune-ups to run properly.

Without proper and regular maintenance an air conditioner loses about 5% of it’s original efficiency for each year of operation. This means that the 12 SEER unit that you bought just a few years ago may be functioning like a 9 SEER unit today.  It’s not all bad news. You can recover most of that lost efficiency through regular maintenance. There have been studies show that with regular tune-ups a unit will maintain up to 95% of it’s original efficiency! This will mean that the cost of an annual tune-up is recovered rather quickly by earning savings on your monthly electric bill and reduced repair costs. A properly serviced air conditioner will also do a better job of dehumidifying your home.

The service check should include cleaning the condensing unit coils, checking the amp draw of the compressor, oiling the fan motors, checking that belts are well adjusted, and checking the system operating pressures and temperatures against the manufacturers specifications. One of the most important items to check is the coolant level (previously known as Freon) in the air conditioner. A system that is only 10% low on coolant will cost about 20% more to operate! The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) recommends that coolant levels be checked every year.

If your unit is low on coolant, and more must be added, there are new laws governing its use. Freon is a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) that will damage the Earths protective ozone layer if released into the atmosphere. The laws governing CFC’s now do not allow your air conditioner contractor to add Freon to a leaky system. [Ed note: CFCs are no longer allowed and various alternative refrigerants are now common.] They are first required to find and fix the leak in the system. Don’t ask them to violate this law as they may lose their license if they are caught doing this.

There are some things in addition to yearly tune-ups that you can do to help ensure a high level of comfort and proper system operation:

  1. Buy good filters and change them regularly.
  2. Keep bushes and other materials away from the outside unit of your air conditioner.
  3. Avoid closing supply air outlets in your house. In almost all cases, closing supply outlets is harmful to the operation of the overall system.

All equipment, even the most reliable, needs routine maintenance. Complicated equipment like today’s air conditioners benefit in many ways from annual service. They recover much of their lost efficiency, they are less likely to suffer a major break down, they have a longer life span, they increase your comfort, and they operate for less money.

Check with HVAC Philly for specials offers and special prices at this time of the year. Some HVAC contractors even offer annual service programs that insure that you will be reminded of the need to service the unit at the beginning of the cooling and heating seasons.

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