For homeowners, there are few sounds worse than the telltale grinding of an HVAC system’s motor, as it’s the first sign of upcoming discomfort. If not taken care of, your home may become a sauna or icebox in short order after the grinding begins. Unfortunately, this is common with HVAC systems, as they have a reputation for breaking down when you need them the most. As one part begins to fail, it can quickly affect the whole system, leading to a complete shutdown at the height of the season.

We’ll help you avoid this extreme household discomfort by looking at the importance of preseason HVAC tune-ups. By scheduling a checkup for your air conditioning and/or heating system just a month or two before the weather turns extreme, technicians can catch faulty parts in time, replace them, and save you weeks of abject misery.

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What Goes Into an HVAC Tune-up?

HVAC tune-ups are preventative maintenance checks that ensure your system can handle the increased workload of the summer heat or winter chill. A technician will come to your home, comprehensively inspect all the major components of your HVAC system, and perform routine maintenance. If there are major faults or damaged components, the technician may be able to fix the problem then and there. Often, however, they will schedule a future appointment while they wait for the right parts.

A typical HVAC tune-up includes:

  • Checking and adjusting blower belts
  • Checking and, if needed, replacing the system’s air filter
  • Testing the thermostat
  • Measuring refrigerant levels
  • Checking and cleaning coils
  • Checking and straightening fins
  • Measuring the voltage system
  • Oiling and lubricating the motor
  • Checking and cleaning the condensate drain
  • Inspecting, tightening, and repairing electrical connections
  • Testing controls
  • Inspecting pressure and temperature levels
  • Checking carbon monoxide levels
  • Inspecting ductwork and indoor vents
  • Testing emergency shutoffs
  • Flushing and cleaning the drain line
  • Flushing and cleaning the trap
  • Inspecting the heat exchanger
  • Inspecting and, if needed, cleaning burners
Air conditioner repairman

What Is the Best Time for an HVAC Tune-up?

The best time for a tune-up is during fall or spring. If you schedule your tune-up during the off-season, your wait times will be much shorter. During the height of summer and winter, HVAC technicians are the busiest, and wait times are much longer. Furthermore, when scheduling during a milder climate — if you have to wait — you’ll be much more comfortable in the meantime. Wait times for parts may take days to weeks, all the while your system may be out of commission or at reduced functionality. The pleasant spring and fall weather will be easier to deal with than the sweltering heat of the summer or the bitter chill of winter.

How Often Should You Schedule an HVAC Tune-Up?

You don’t want to wait until the signs of a failing HVAC show, and even newer systems can need a good cleaning and refrigerant refill. Because of this, you always want to schedule an HVAC tune-up once per year, especially if you experienced a season of extreme temperatures that would have forced your unit to work overtime.

What Are the Main Reasons To Get a Preseason Tune-up?

Getting your HVAC system repaired has many benefits, including:

  1. Reduced heating and cooling costs: The less efficient your system is, the harder it will have to work to keep your house’s temperature ideal. A harder-working HVAC system will consume more energy, resulting in higher heating and cooling costs. By scheduling a tune-up, you’ll keep your system running smoothly and reduce your utility bill for the entire season.
  2. Less chance of breakdown: Unfortunately, many components of an HVAC system show few outward signs of failure before they break down completely. Chances are, by the time you know something is wrong, it’s already on its way to throwing in the towel. You can greatly reduce the chance of random HVAC failure by having a trained technician inspect and perform regular maintenance.
  3. More comfortable summers and winters: One of the worst things about HVAC failures is their timing, as parts often break when you need them the most. One weekend of intense exertion can be the last nail in the coffin if you have a part teetering on the edge of failure. Unfortunately, this means that your system is most likely to fail when temperatures are at their most extreme. You can mitigate these disasters by ensuring your system is in tip-top shape before temperatures get too intense.
  4. Better household air quality: If your home’s air quality is suffering, it might be because your HVAC unit isn’t working at its maximum capacity. Clogged filters, restricted vents, or other problems can lead to poor air circulation and reduced air quality. Regular inspections and tune-ups can mitigate these problems, keeping your air fresh and comfortable.
  5. Lower future costs and a longer HVAC unit life span: HVAC problems tend to snowball as one part failing strains the rest of the unit. If one failing part isn’t taken care of early enough, it can result in multiple parts failing down the line before their natural life span ends. This cascade of failure can eventually lead to multiple parts needing replacing and creating increased wear and tear, reducing the overall life span of your HVAC unit.
  6. Saving on wait times: Wait times for technicians are at the highest during the peaks of summer and the depths of winter. By having your HVAC inspected during the spring and fall, you’ll avoid these wait times as business is much slower.

Do Home Warranties Cover HVAC Repairs and Tune-ups?

Home warranty document and a red pen

One of the major benefits of home warranties is that they cover repairs and maintenance for standard wear and tear of many home systems. As such, HVAC tune-ups align with the coverage of most home warranties. What is covered in the tune-up will depend on your company, policy, and add-ons, as each company has different policy requirements, part cost caps, and coverage ranges. Thankfully, most home warranties cover HVAC systems and provide valuable routine maintenance, repairs, upkeep, and tune-ups.

Top Signs You Need an HVAC Tune-up

While we recommend getting a tune-up before things go wrong, there are some common warning signs that your system might need a tune-up or repair. You should contact an HVAC professional if you experience any of the following:

  • Increase in energy bills: If your HVAC unit is malfunctioning, it will have less energy efficiency, using up more power, increasing your energy bill.
  • Weak or non-existent airflow: Several problems can cause weak airflow in a unit, such as clogged filters or a broken fan.
  • Non-functioning cooling and heating system: If you’ve set your thermostat to a preferred temperature, but the air coming out of your vents isn’t correct, it’s a clear sign something has gone wrong.
  • An incorrect temperature on the thermostat: This error can occur due to a faulty thermostat, a broken sensor, or a malfunction in the HVAC unit.
  • Unusual noises coming from your unit: Any noise from the HVAC unit is cause for concern. While not all noises indicate an immediate breakdown, most noises indicate a problem and should be addressed sooner rather than later.
  • Change in humidity or loss of indoor air quality: Functioning HVAC units help regulate your home’s humidity, so if you notice a marked increase in humidity or general lowering of air quality, it’s a good sign you need a tune-up.
  • Unpleasant odors coming while the heating & air conditioning system are running: Bad odors coming from your systems might indicate several problems, such as mold or mildew, damaged electrical systems, or a dirty filter.
AC unit being tested

Final Thoughts

Heating and cooling systems are essential for enjoying your home. Without them, your home’s temperature, humidity, and overall livability drop drastically. Unfortunately, during peak times throughout the year, when we need it the most, is when an HVAC system is most likely to break. What’s worse, due to the high demand, HVAC maintenance services have extended wait times, resulting in you potentially waiting weeks until your AC or heating unit can be fixed. To help prevent this and avoid turning your house into an oven, you should try to schedule an annual maintenance tune-up during the spring or fall.

Editorial Contributors
Sam Wasson

Sam Wasson

Staff Writer

Sam Wasson graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in Film and Media Arts with an Emphasis in Entertainment Arts and Engineering. Sam brings over four years of content writing and media production experience to the Today’s Homeowner content team. He specializes in the pest control, landscaping, and moving categories. Sam aims to answer homeowners’ difficult questions by providing well-researched, accurate, transparent, and entertaining content to Today’s Homeowner readers.

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Roxanne Downer


Roxanne Downer is a commerce editor at Today’s Homeowner, where she tackles everything from foundation repair to solar panel installation. She brings more than 15 years of writing and editing experience to bear in her meticulous approach to ensuring accurate, up-to-date, and engaging content. She’s previously edited for outlets including MSN, Architectural Digest, and Better Homes & Gardens. An alumna of the University of Pennsylvania, Roxanne is now an Oklahoma homeowner, DIY enthusiast, and the proud parent of a playful pug.

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