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Average Air Conditioner Maintenance Costs

Articles in this series are not intended to provide repair advice. They are written to inform the do-it-yourselfer of common problems with many types of equipment and some methods of how to service them on their own. Seek professional help when necessary.

An adequately maintained central air conditioner will cost less to operate, stay more comfortable and last much longer than one that is not correctly cared for. Many people clean or change filters once a month during the cooling season but fail to take care of their AC systems over the winter months.

Read your owner's manual for any seasonal maintenance recommendations from the manufacturer before you begin. Here are some general guidelines for proper maintenance regardless of manufacturer recommendations:

Service or Clean Your Air Conditioner Once a Year

Clean or replace the air filter. Dirty filters can reduce airflow and promote mold growth in the drain pan. Check with your manufacturer for recommended types of filters. Some newer systems have electronic air cleaners that should be checked and cleaned or replaced every six months depending on local conditions. Follow all safety precautions when working around refrigerants, gas fumes, high voltage electrical components, etc. If you don't feel confident doing it yourself, contact qualified service personnel to do this work for you.

Condenser coils should be vacuumed clean at least once a year, if not more often, to remove dirt, leaves and bugs found in many locations throughout North America; if there is an excessive buildup of lint, the condenser coils may need to be cleaned more often or in some cases replaced. If in doubt, check with a service professional.

You should also apply a coating of rust protection to the outside unit once a year and, in some areas, may need to do it twice, depending on local conditions. Check the manufacturer's recommendations on your system's metal or plastic parts before applying any protective coatings (Wax, Grease, etc.). Follow all safety precautions when handling these products, as they can be flammable if not used correctly.

Not All AC Compressors Need Replacement When They Stop Running

If you hear no cooling sound at all from your air conditioner even though everything else seems to be ok (electricity is still flowing correctly), the chances are good that your compressor has stopped running (or locked up). You may hear a rattling sound or notice that the fan is still turning. This occurs in most systems when the compressor locks up due to excessive vibration and lack of lubrication.

A blocked condenser coil in front of your central air conditioner can cause an increase in vibration and strain on the compressor, especially in warm weather environments and higher elevations where the refrigerant lines are pressurized at a higher level than average.

If this problem is not solved, the increased strain will eventually overheat and destroy your system's motor, which can be pretty expensive to repair or replace. The fix for this problem is relatively easy, but you must remember that compressed gas such as Freon does not like changes in pressure.

If the A/C compressor has locked up due to vibration or lack of lubrication, you can solve this problem by changing the oil in your system. This is not hard to do if you know what type of oil is used for lubricating these motors. But before making any repair, make sure that electricity to your unit is turned off at the breaker box and cool outside before adding oil into your A/C equipment.

Make sure that you are familiar with all safety precautions regarding Freon gas before attempting this procedure. Follow all safety instructions when working around refrigerants, gas fumes, high voltage electrical components, etc. If you are not comfortable doing this project, contact qualified service personnel to do it for you.

This simple procedure should be done every 2 to 3 years, depending on the amount of use your system gets throughout the year, but it's an integral part of routine A/C maintenance you can do yourself. Once completed, turn everything back on slowly and check for proper airflow out of vents. You may need to adjust the thermostat again due to the lack of humidity that your evaporator coil will now experience, which could cause a rebalancing effect with colder air entering room areas. Adjust appropriately if necessary after completing this process.

Our AC contractor specializing in equipment repair for over 30 years, was asked how often he replaces an AC compressor? He stated, "Many contractors have replaced compressors because they felt they were not doing their job even though there was no indication on the test gauge that there was a problem with the compressor. I spend most of my time repairing compressors that have locked up due to lack of lubrication or vibration issues."

I hope this information has been helpful for you. Thank you for your interest in HVAC air conditioning maintenance.

Scogin-Aire Mechanical - Air Conditioning Repair Spring TX
20714 Sleepy Hollow, Spring, TX 77388, United States