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  • Writer's pictureDrew Camire

Air Conditioning Maintenance......Worth the money or not?

Updated: Apr 25

Written by Drew Camire

Owner of Comfort Matters Heating and Air LLC

A very clean air handler unit after a maintenance

Throughout my career of servicing, repairing and installing air conditioners, there are few questions I get presented with more than this one. "Drew, is having my air conditioner routinely serviced actually that important?" Of course, every air conditioning company will likely tell you yes without hesitation but the answer has never been so clear cut for me. My honest answer to you is yes...........and no. This post will cover the do's, the don'ts and the stuff that sits somewhere in the middle. As always, I am completely open to answer questions or just provide some further clarity if need be.

Before I continue on, please don't read this and think that this all there is on the topic of maintenances. This just covers 1 question and is based on my personal experience and opinion. Now that we have gotten that little disclaimer out of the way, let's go ahead and start my rant here with all of the reasons that I support having routine maintenance performed.

  1. Manufacturers require routine maintenance to be done in order to preserve the parts warranty. This is accurate. There is a disclaimer of sorts in most warranty certificates that states routine maintenance is required for the parts warranty to remain active. There is also usually a statement that says the parts warranty can be voided if the cause of failure could be due to lack of maintenance. Keeping this in mind, it is really up to the contractor filing the warranty to tell the distributor whether or not it is due to lack of maintenance. If the contractor does not claim lack of maintenance as the cause, the distributor does not request the part to be returned and neither does the manufacturer, it likely will not make much of a difference. With this being said, it is a gamble of sorts to not have your unit serviced routinely during the warranty period.

  2. Contractors will tell you that maintenances can prevent problems before they happen. Again, yes and no. Having routine maintenance performed can often times prolong system life and give the contractor the opportunity to catch things before they cause a breakdown. There are things such as weak capacitors, motors going out, electrical parts rusting really badly or just making a lot of noise, coils beginning to get really dirty that need to be cleaned so they don't cause an issue, drains starting to back up, refrigerant circuit issues(freon as it's mostly known to our customers) and many other things depending on your system life. However, this does not mean because you had a maintenance done last week that it is now impossible for things to go wrong. Most commonly found is refrigerant leaks that decide to pop at any time and they usually happen between maintenances. All I am saying here is that routine maintenance can prevent a lot of issues before they happen but it does not mean that you will never have issues.

  3. A clean system is a happy system. This reason does not require a super long explanation. One of the most important requirements for a properly operating and efficient air conditioning or heating system is that it is kept clean. I am including keeping your filters clean and changed routinely. A dirty system can cause high energy bills, inefficient operation, bad smells and poor air quality, temperature swings throughout the house, uneven air flow, high or low refrigerant pressures, system freezing (literal ice, inches thick), motor failure and quite a few more expensive and serious problems. Personally speaking, this is really the number 1 reason to have maintenance done. Some of the systems I have come across are a disgusting level of dirty. I encourage you just to take my word for it. Yuck!

Now, here are a few reasons why I would say to be skeptical, or at the very least, picky about who maintains your systems and what should be done on them. These are your "don'ts and the stuff that sits somewhere in between".

  1. Choose your maintenance contractors wisely.. Let's face it, every contractor has different pricing and different ways they conduct their maintenances. Quite frankly, I tend to divide them into groups of maintenance style. I have named the first style of contractors "maintenance and sales are synonyms". These are the contractors that charge a very cheap price, somehow seem to do a full maintenance on a system in 20-30 minutes but then spend the next 30 minutes telling you how much you need to buy a list of accessories. The second group I have named, "it's a maintenance-ish". This group is moderately priced, spends about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes looking at the vitals of the system, perform a light cleaning of the system and will bring you suggestions on fixes for current problems or problems that may occur sooner or later because of what they have seen. While this is not the most in-depth maintenance you could get, it's affordable, relatively detailed and honestly is all that's required routinely if your system is in good shape and relatively clean. I like to call the final style "maintenance is life". These contractors charge a relatively higher price but they are by far the most detailed. If it can be checked, they check it. If it can be cleaned, they clean it and usually very thoroughly. Will they do a duct inspection in the 135 degree attic(yes, they get that hot and hotter. My record is 139 degrees) at noon for no extra money? "OF COURSE WE WILL". Now, is this style of maintenance needed routinely? No, but definitely have it done once every couple of years. I know everyone wants to keep using their 1 contractor for everything but maybe shop around for particular services if you feel you aren't getting what you need.

  2. I could have just included this one in with the first style of contractors but I believe it needs to be expanded on. HVAC, otherwise known as heating, ventilation and air conditioning, is just like every other business. The whole goal is to make money while providing a needed service to the community. There are a lot of contractors out there that balance this well and make the industry look good by making sure customer service shines through as a major priority. There are others that forgot this balance and became more about sales than service. You will find that these contractors are fairly easy to pick out. You may also encounter a rotten apple at an otherwise honorable company. If you feel like you're not getting treated correctly, perhaps give another company a try and see what the differences are for yourself.

  3. Frequency. Don't let anyone tell you that a contractor maintenance is required more than 1 or 2 times a year unless they can give you logical reasoning as to such. Frequency is equal parts need due to a given situation and customer preference. If you as the customer want 12 maintenances performed in one year, I doubt any contractor will tell you no. However, I have only ever been to 1 or 2 homes in my career that made me want to recommend quarterly maintenance at the least. An annual maintenance or 1 every six months is usually all that is needed.

My recommendations for maintenance will usually be at least once or twice a year but I encourage you to look at your home and the current situation. Situations that may warrant more routine maintenances are if you have a lot of pets, do routine renovations, have guests coming in and out of your home, the home is used in a business as a vacation rental, you like to leave the doors and windows open a lot, have equipment in an attic/crawl space or have other special circumstances.

I will not be referencing anyone or anything in particular in article? Rant? Ill go with whatever you prefer to call it. Most of my posts on recommendations will be based on experiences and knowledge I have gained during my career.

If you have read this and enjoyed it, have questions or just want further clarity on the topic of maintenance, send us a message and let us know. Otherwise, just hang tight for the next opinion based article. I will be posting routinely on a lot of different HVAC topics.

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