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An air conditioning system is a significant investment for most homeowners. It is, therefore, imperative to maximize that lifespan. The average air conditioner is expected to last 15 to 20 years. Most warranties cover 10 years, and many can be extended by 5 to 10 or even more years. However, warranties are limited, and they stipulate that you carry out some of the maintenance we will mention in this guide. The key to long air conditioner life is preventive maintenance. The most prevalent cause of early AC failures is the break-fix approach – meaning that you do not service the unit until it falters or fails.

Carefully Choose Your HVAC Company and Build a Relationship

Your choice of HVAC company is important since not all businesses hold themselves to the same standards. Seek a provider that is well-established in your community, has earned a reputation for excellence, and is fully licensed and insured as required by state and local laws. Certified technicians that receive ongoing training are also a big plus. Once you have found a company you can trust, stick with it, and build a relationship. Having a regular technician that knows your equipment and routinely service it can make a real difference when it comes to noticing small but important details.

Seasonal Tune-Up

Nothing is more important to the longevity of your air conditioner than seasonal tune-ups. This is the preventive maintenance mentioned in the opener. It is required by practically all AC warranties and is relatively inexpensive. Many companies even offer maintenance agreements that reduce your costs even more. When you should schedule your tune-up depends on your climate, but it is generally recommended that you have a tune-up performed prior to using the system, such as in spring. Be mindful that a tune-up has benefits beyond just extending the system lifespan. A tune-up improves energy efficiency and thus decreases your energy bill. It significantly reduces the likelihood of an issue requiring repair, and it increases comfort by ensuring that your home cools fast and in an even manner.

Tune-ups often include:
  • Comprehensive inspection
  • Thorough cleaning
  • Filter replacement
  • Thermostat calibration
  • Lubrication of all moving parts.
  • Measuring supply and return temperatures

Emphasize Home Energy Efficiency

No matter how well you maintain an air conditioning unit, it will eventually succumb to natural wear and tear. Therefore, your goal should be to limit that wear and tear as much as possible. In other words, your AC unit should work as little as possible to maintain a comfortable home. This is where the concept of home energy efficiency comes in. When a home has ventilation or insulation issues, then your system has to work harder in order to achieve your target temperature. If, on the other hand, your home is well-sealed and adequately ventilated, your home will remain cool with less effort from the system. If you have never had a home energy audit performed, the industry recommends scheduling one as soon as it is practical. It is also a good idea to schedule an audit every several years or so in order to stay abreast of potential problems in your home and be able to deal with them before multiple issues accumulate.

Regular Filter and Vent Inspection

The common advice is that you should replace your filters—or wash in the case of reusables—every three months, but it really depends on the home and environment. Homeowners with dogs and cats, for instance, will usually have to replace their filters more often. Every 30 days is not uncommon. Therefore, we recommend a monthly inspection and simply replace or wash the filters whenever there is visible buildup. This monthly inspection is also a good opportunity to inspect all of the vents in the home. Ensure that they are open and unobstructed and dust them out for optimal airflow.

Keep Outside Equipment Clear of Debris

Your monthly inspection is also a good opportunity to go outside and inspect the condenser unit and any other outside equipment. The general rule is to maintain two feet of clearance around any outside unit. If you see any debris, remove it, and most modern units can simply be cleaned out with a garden hose. Pay attention to the condenser fins—also known as evaporator fins—too. Ensure they are clear of debris, and if you notice any wear, call your HVAC technician who can apply a protectant to the damaged area.

Something else to consider is direct sunlight. The hotter your condenser unit, the harder it has to work and thus accumulates additional wear and tear. If the side of the house where the equipment is located gets significant sunlight for extended periods, then you may want to purchase a shade screen. These protectors are relatively inexpensive and can reduce the temperature of your condenser unit by a lot.

Ductwork Cleaning and Inspection

Your ducts will accumulate dust over time. Duct cleaning removes this accumulation, and while this cleaning is not absolutely necessary for HVAC maintenance, it does provide two important benefits. The first is that it improves indoor air quality. Dust absorbs pollutants, which it then rereleases into the air over time. The second benefit is that the service includes a comprehensive inspection of the ductwork. If present, your technician will identify faulty connections, sagging ducts, and other issues. These problems will all affect airflow, which will cause your air conditioner to work hard in order to compensate.

Invest in a Smart Thermostat

The EPA estimates that the average home using a manual thermostat is wasting 30% of energy costs in cooling. You are not only losing money on a monthly basis but overworking your AC unit. Smart thermostats can have a day mode, evening mode, night mode, weekend mode, vacation mode, and so forth. It can efficiently transition between them, such as lowering the temperature right before you get home from work and raising the temp, for instance, an hour after your bedtime.

Consider Zoning

You can take the concept of minimizing usage a step further with zoning. With multiple zones in a home, you can maximize cooling in the areas you are using while minimizing it in the areas you are not. Most homeowners will consider zoning when it comes time to purchase a new system, but if you prefer to do it sooner, it is possible to retroactively zone an existing setup.

Trust in Your Local HVAC Professionals

JW Plumbing, Heating and Air is a family-owned and -operated company that has been serving the Greater Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley, and San Gabriel Valley areas for many years. Our success has been built on honesty, integrity, teamwork, and accountability. We are an ACCA member and BBB accredited with an A+ rating and have earned prestigious accolades, including the HomeAdvisor Top-Rated Business award and the Angie’s List Gold award. In addition to air conditioning maintenance, repair, and installation, we offer a full range of heating and plumbing services. If you would like to learn more about these services or want to schedule an appointment, call us today or contact us online!