Updated On

November 9, 2023

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    Are you wondering how often to service your air conditioner? We can help.

    In this guide, you will learn:

    • How many times should you service your AC each year?
    • What DIY HVAC tips should homeowners follow?
    • What happens if you do not service your air conditioner?
    • Does servicing your AC extend its lifespan?

    Servicing your air conditioner is critical. A well-maintained HVAC system runs efficiently longer. It also keeps the air in your home clean, and there are plenty of other reasons to maintain your HVAC system.

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    When Should You Service Your Air Conditioner? 

    Experts agree that you should have your HVAC system serviced twice each year. You should schedule your air conditioning tune-up at the end of spring and fall. 

    You want to have the service performed before the heat of summer and the cold winter weather. HVACs tend to give out when you put them under the most pressure and the last thing you want is to have a system breakdown when the temperatures are dangerously high or low. 

    It is critical that you keep up with these checkups especially if you have high-risk family members. It is dangerous to have an infant or elderly person in extreme temperatures.

    What Is An Air Conditioning System Checkup?

    When an HVAC technician completes a system tuneup, they go over your entire system to identify any potential problems. They check any HVAC symbols, check the coolant levels, and add refrigerant if necessary. 

    The HVAC contractor will also swap out any parts you need to replace and install new filters.

    How Much Do Air Conditioner Tune-ups Cost?

    Having your HVAC serviced will cost between $100 and $200. If the technician has to replace any parts or add refrigerant, you will have to pay for that too. 

    If you have an air conditioner made before 2010 that uses R-22 refrigerant refilling your system can be quite costly. Replacing R-22 refrigerant can be difficult as it is no longer sold or imported to the United States. 

    So, if your system uses this refrigerant, your technician will have to have recaptured refrigerant from another system. Because getting it is so challenging, the cost of R-22 refrigerant is quite high. 

    Homeowners are now paying more than $50 per pound, and prices will only go up as the supply of R-22 runs out. A 4-ton AC unit takes 16 pounds of coolant. That means filling a 4-ton unit will cost you at least $800.

    There are home warranty packages for HVAC systems that you could subscribe to take care of your AC repairs and maintenance needs. You might want to check them out to see which one best suits your needs.

    What Other AC Maintenance Should You Do? 

    In addition to having your air conditioning system maintenance performed twice a year, you need to perform other maintenance tasks yourself. There are also some services you should have done every few years. Below are some maintenance tips and ways to clean an air conditioning unit.

    Thermostat Maintenance

    Your thermostat is like the brain of your HVAC system. It tells your air conditioner when it needs to turn on and off. 

    If the thermostat batteries are weak, it will cause the thermostat not to work properly. So, you should change the batteries annually or as soon as you see a low battery notification. 

    You should also check the prongs on the back of your thermostat face. Make sure the prongs are not bent, broken, or missing before you replace it. If there are any broken prongs, you should replace the thermostat to keep your AC running well.

    Coil Cleaning

    Your air conditioner uses a condenser coil and an evaporator coil. The indoor coil removes the heat and moisture from your home. The outdoor coil cools the refrigerant and returns it back to your indoor evaporator coil. 

    When the coils are dirty, your system is not as efficient. So, it is a good idea to clean them once a year. 

    Coil cleaning is a fairly easy task to do yourself. However, you will want to take some safety precautions, and if you are uncomfortable with the job, you should hire a professional.

    Related: What is an Air Conditioning Coil Cleaner?

    Ductwork Cleaning 

    There are many homes that have never had the ducts cleaned. Unlike your indoor and outdoor air conditioner units, which have probably been replaced if you live in an older home, it is unlikely that you have installed new ductwork. 

    That means you could have decades of dust and debris in the vents. The debris that is in your air conditioning system blows into your home and it can make your family sick. 

    Having your ductwork cleaned is not just a luxury, it is necessary. Your HVAC company will use cleaners that are approved by the EPA for duct cleaning, and the sanitization will remove dust, debris, and allergens. 

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    Air Filters 

    You may not realize how important it is to change your AC filters. Dirty filters strain your air conditioner by restricting the airflow. 

    When you use a filter that is clogged, it does not work properly. The purpose of your air filter is to prevent particles from entering the air handler. 

    Over time, pollen, dander, and other pollutants get into your HVAC system, which makes the coils, fan motor, and other components less efficient. Eventually, it can cause system breakdowns.

    Clean The Drain Line

    Your air conditioner has a condensate pan that collects condensation from your unit. The water that collects in the tray then goes through a pipe that leads to the exterior of your home. 

    When the condensate drain gets clogged, the water can overflow. The result can be disastrous to drywall, insulation, and wood. 

    During the summer months when it is hot in your attic, your air conditioner produces more condensation. So, you should check the drain line before every cooling season. 

    For more information on cleaning your air conditioner drain line, check out this video:

    What Happens If You Do Not Have Your Air Conditioner Serviced? 

    Routine maintenance by a qualified air conditioning service is essential. If you do not maintain your air conditioner, it will end up costing you more in the long run. So, while there is some expense involved with maintaining your system, you will enjoy cleaner air, lower electricity bills, and your system will last longer. 

    Save Money On Electricity Bills

    A well-maintained HVAC system has better energy efficiency. When your heating and cooling system is running well it costs you less in electricity usage. 

    Although some homeowners find that it is cheaper to keep the AC on, your system does not have to stay on as long to maintain a comfortable temperature if it is running well, and a system that is inefficient can add hundreds of dollars to your electric bill every month.

    Keep Your Warranty Active

    Some air conditioning manufacturers require warranty owners to maintain their cooling and heating systems in good operating condition. Failing to perform regular maintenance like changing your air filters and having your air conditioning unit tuned-up annually, can void your warranty. 

    Improve The Air Quality In Your Home

    A filthy AC system can make the air in your home unhealthy. Your air conditioner should remove moisture and turn hot air into cool air. 

    When your air conditioner is struggling to keep up with the thermostat, your air conditioner does not remove as much moisture. So, build-up in the ductwork mixes with the moist air coming out of your vents to create an unhealthy mix and you may end up having to disinfect your AC system.

    How Can You Save Money On Central Air Service?

    AC service is not optional, but there are ways you can save money on annual maintenance. One of the best ways is to buy a home warranty that covers your home systems. 

    There are even some plans that cover annual service and they cover heat pumps, furnaces, air conditioners, compressor units, evaporator coils, and other major components of your HVAC system. 

    Home warranties cost about $500 per year, but you can break it down into affordable monthly payments. Plus, your home service contract will help you keep your AC system running well which will save you money. 

    Get HVAC Estimates In Just 30 Seconds
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    Final Advice On Air HVAC Maintenance

    With so many reasons to take care of your AC system, it is clear that you should follow through with semi-annual air conditioning maintenance. Investing in HVAC checkups will increase the lifespan of your units and save you money. 

    Editorial Contributors
    avatar for Alexis Bennett

    Alexis Bennett


    Alexis is a freelance writer with nearly a decade of experience covering the home services industry. She’s built considerable expertise in roofing, plumbing, and HVAC, as well as general construction and real estate matters. In her free time, Alexis enjoys coaching women’s golf. She lives in the Triad area of North Carolina.

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    photo of Andrew Dunn

    Andrew Dunn

    Senior Editor

    Andrew Dunn is a veteran journalist with more than 15 years of experience reporting and editing for local and national publications, including The Charlotte Observer and Business North Carolina magazine. His work has been recognized numerous times by the N.C. Press Association and the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. He is also a former general contractor with experience with cabinetry, finish carpentry and general home improvement and repair. Andrew earned a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as a certificate in business journalism. He lives in Charlotte, N.C.

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