Do I really need an air conditioner tune-up and what do I get for my money?
Even though it has been pretty mild and even rainy these last few days, I can’t help but think about all of my future customers who will be calling me frantically asking how soon we can get out to their house to fix their AC system.
Our customers in Rancho Cordova and the surrounding Sacramento area who have already had their AC maintenance from Fox Family Heating, Air Conditioning and Solar have peace of mind going into the Summer months. AC maintenance customers receive an incredible 60 point AC tune up every Spring on their system. That means we check and clean a lot more parts than the other companies. I have heard of 12 point inspections, 20 point inspections, and even 30 point inspections. I have never heard of a company that does a 60 point tune-up on your system. What’s better, our company can show what it was we checked. Sometimes companies say they are checking this and cleaning that, but leave you thinking, “What did they DO?” To the left is a picture of our AC Maintenance form we use in every home. It’s probably a little small to read, but you can see how many items we are checking on the visit.
We also rate your components on a Good, Medium, Bad or Green, Yellow, Red system. If the items on your form are red or yellow, we’d like to talk to you about how we can make your system perform better for you and your family. Another great thing about our AC maintenance is no matter which Fox Family technician performs the tune-up for your system, everything gets checked in the same order. At some other companies, there is not a structured way of doing the tune-up. The boss just says, “go out and make sure it’s up and running.” This is why $39 AC Tune-ups are not a good value for you. The technician performing that tune-up is going to move quickly through your system to get to the next job. Don’t you want someone to take their time on your home AC system and deliberately check each and every component, so you’ll know exactly what is and what is not working well on your AC system? Every AC maintenance should take about 45 minutes to an hour and a half. You’ll know we have a structured way of going through your system to make sure it ready for the upcoming summer months!
We start off at your thermostat, checking to make sure they are mounted securely to the wall and that your batteries are in good condition. We also want to make sure you are comfortable with how to use the thermostat. Is it programmed to your specific needs? Next, we check the air filters for size, fit and cleanliness. As we move on through your AC maintenance, we are checking for items regarding your home comfort level, such as your insulation levels in the attic. The current standard for insulation in California is R-38. Most older homes we go into have less than half of that. This may be one reason why your utility bills are too high in the summer and winter months. If you could build a bigger barrier between your hot attic in the summertime and your nice cool living room down below, your energy bill would plummet. Some people tell me they cannot get the house to go down below 80 degrees in the summertime. Then I look up in their attic and see an insulation value equal to pretty much zero! No wonder your bills are high and the AC still won’t cool you down. Radiant heat is bullying its way into your house without your permission. Put a stop to it! Let Fox Family Heating and Air blow an adequate level of insulation into your attic and put some money back into your pocket.
After checking your ductwork and insulation levels, we move on to the air handler and evaporator portion which pushes the air through your duct system and cools the air at the same time. You may already know that your AC system has an outdoor unit because you hear it cranking up a few thousand times every summer. But did you know the other half of your AC system is at the air handler? You see, you have a hot coil on the outside, getting rid of the heat in your home, and a cold coil in the attic or garage, wherever your particular air handler happens to be. The air handler has a blower wheel and a motor to push the room temperature air across the cold coils to give you air conditioning in your home!
We assess and evaluate the following at the air conditioner:
- Manufacture date
- Door safety switch
- Temperature difference of the air coming in and going out of your system
- Blower capacitor rating and actual value
- Balanced blower wheel for efficiency
- Blower assembly cleanliness for longevity of life and efficiency
- Primary drain lines get purged with nitrogen for proper operation
- Condensate safety switch to ensure that your sheetrock below the AC in the attic never becomes damaged in the case of a leaking evaporator coil.
- Condensate lines to make sure they are properly sloped and drain to the outside with only the help of gravity
- Condensate lines to make sure there are no leaking joints or connections
- The condition of your necessary secondary drain pan. Some homes don’t even have one of these. I feel bad for them if the primary pan ever failed. Water, water and more water on their nice sheet rock in the living room, nooooo!
- The condition of your evaporator coil to make sure it is converting your air to be as cool as possible by the time it reaches your room
- Refrigerant leaks around all the joints around the system
- The expansion valve sensing bulb for proper mounting per manufacturer specified installation practices. This will improve the efficiency of your system once mounted properly.
- We determine if there is already a UV air purification system in your duct system already. If not, we will always recommend that to you, because we know everyone will breathe easier in the home with a working UV air purification system.
Once we are through checking the air handler and all of its’ parts, we go to the air conditioner outside. We determine the condition of every item on that unit, so you’ll know what kind of shape it is in. We assess and evaluate the following at your Air Conditioner:
- Manufacture date
- The current outdoor temperature
- The type of refrigerant is used in your system.
- Type of wiring used to supply the high voltage to your system.
- The service disconnect to make sure it is safe and meets city code specifications
- We tighten the lugs on the high voltage terminals at the disconnect and contactor within the AC unit.
- We check the maximum fuse rated for your specific unit and determine whether the right fuses are still in the service disconnect from when it was installed, or has someone put different ones in there.
- Inspect for signs of leaking refrigerant around the AC
- Ensure the copper suction line going into the outdoor AC unit has sufficient insulation on it to keep in line with specified rules from the city code inspector. This affects the efficiency of the system if not properly insulated.
- Measure the amps draws on your condenser fan motor while it’s running to determine if it’s running okay, or do we see this motor going out soon.
- Measure the voltages coming into the contactor as well as going out.
- Record the amp draws of the compressor to determine if it’s running okay.
- Measure the microfarad levels of the compressor capacitor and the condenser fan capacitor.
- Check for the presence of a 5-2-1 compressor start assist on the AC unit. If not present, we’ll suggest one to you because we know that it will likely extend the life of your compressor. The manufacturers don’t usually put one on the system because it is a conflict of interest for them. They know that your system will last longer with one on your system. That’s why they don’t add one in the first place.
- Tighten all electrical connections within the AC unit to prevent any high voltage arcing from terminal to terminal.
- Lubricate all moving parts that aren’t sealed for longer life.
- Wash and wipe down your unit to make sure it is clean and serviceable. There’s nothing like an AC that you rub up against and then get dirty from all the oxidation rubs off on you.
- If you have an excessive build-up of leaves and stick in the bottom of your unit, we’ll get those out as well for you.
- We also verify that the unit can breathe properly by making sure the bushes and shrubs are cut back from the unit at least one foot.
It takes a lot of discipline to perform these AC maintenance procedures so precisely on hundreds of units every Spring in the Rancho Cordova and Sacramento area. At Fox Family Heating and Air Conditioning, we feel we are bringing you a great value for your money. We perform a 60 point tune-up on your system. This will help you feel more comfortable going into the summer months knowing we have thoroughly gone through your system from head to toe measuring, identifying, determining, and calculating your AC system’s performance.
We know it’s a lot of information! But a 30 point inspection for the same price just isn’t going to identify the real details of your system.
Let us tell you what is going on with your system. Good and bad! If we suggest a part to you and you feel like this is not the right time for you and your family, no problem! We would never want to make you feel uncomfortable. As long as you are informed, we feel like we’ve done our job. If you decide to move forward with any suggested repairs, we have the necessary parts on our trucks and can get you up and running to your manufacturer’s specs in a jiffy. The AC maintenance is critical to the longevity of our system. We hope you aren’t a victim of an inconvenient breakdown this summer. Give us a call, and let us come out to show you in person what a real AC maintenance is supposed to look like.
Greg Fox is the owner of Fox Family Heating, Air Conditioning and Solar, Inc. He has been in the HVAC industry since 2010, and the customer service industry for over twenty years.