The trick to evaluating air conditioning service contracts
Did you know that there are no government-imposed standards when it comes to air conditioning service contracts? That means all air conditioning maintenance is not created equal. Never assume that you’re comparing apples to apples when evaluating service contracts from different providers.
In a way, this is a good thing, because it means that reputable air conditioning service companies can customize a contract according to the age and condition of your equipment, the cooling needs of your space and its occupants, and your budget. You just need to be sure what’s covered under the contract, and that you’re getting the features you need.
A service contract or maintenance agreement covers regularly scheduled physical inspections and AC maintenance procedures that greatly improve equipment performance and increase the lifespan of the system.
A service contract can cover inspection only, preventative maintenance, full labor and even up to full coverage for all labor and parts. Your agreement will be good for one year, after which you can renew with different terms if needed.
When you’re working with an air conditioning service company on a contract, use this AC maintenance checklist to compare tasks. Not everyone needs all of the items on this AC maintenance checklist, and to keep the price down you may be willing to do without certain items. Talk to your service provider to make sure the tasks that are important to you are included in the maintenance you’re paying for.
TIP: When you’re evaluating service contracts, be very wary of those written in legalese that’s so complex that you’re not sure you understand what’s covered and what’s not. A company that truly cares about customer service (and isn’t trying to hide anything) will write contracts that are clear and easy to understand.
Spring AC Maintenance Checklist
The following is a list of the tasks that may be included in your air conditioning service contract, depending on your equipment and the the type of maintenance agreement:
- Clean or replace filters at least quarterly to keep dirt and debris out of the ductwork and the system components
- Check blowers and fan blades for proper airflow
- Check the electrical system including wiring, fuses and contactors; tighten loose connections to prevent power loss
- Check belts for wear and replace if necessary
- Clean dirt, soot and mold from the condenser coil, and measure before and after temperatures to verify effectiveness
- Inspect evaporator coils and clean as needed
- Check refrigerant charge, fix any leaks and replenish as needed
- Check cabinet integrity for air leaks caused by cracks, missing screws, loose latches and faulty gaskets
- Check all drain lines for proper drainage and clear lines that may be clogged with debris or coated with moisture and dust
- Clear drain pans of standing water in order to prevent overflows
- Lubricate moving parts that have been idle all winter to keep things running smoothly
- Replace pulleys that may be worn
- Test thermostats and other controls to ensure that the correct temperatures are maintained, timer functions are set properly, and batteries are changed
- Inspect ducts and airways for mold, dust and debris
- Test humidity levels and look for moisture and especially rust, which can be a sign of a serious issue
- Lubricate pumps
- Inspect couplings and check for leaks
- Test fan motor
- Clean starter and cabinet as needed
- Check log readings
- Check the overall condition of equipment
- If you have a water-cooled system, inspect the cooling tower fill, support structure, nozzles, valves, fan blades and wiring
How to decide who you can trust
Now that you have this AC maintenance checklist to guide you in evaluating the tasks that need to be done, how do you choose the right provider to do them? You may assume that the general contractor or mechanical contractor that installed your HVAC system is the best choice to maintain it. This is frequently a mistake.
Many installers don’t even want to get involved in maintenance and won’t even bring up the issue. Their business focuses on the big job of installation, and once that’s done they just want to get on to the next customer without worrying about the hassles of small maintenance tasks. They may not even be qualified to maintain your system.
When choosing a provider, it’s important to consider a company’s reputation and the details of the AC maintenance contract rather than deciding based on cost alone. Companies that underbid to win your business will likely skimp on service and only do the minimum needed to keep the system running until the end of the contract, which will leave out many of the important tasks on our AC maintenance checklist.
To keep your system in top condition and save money for the long term, turn to an expert HVAC contractor that specializes in service. As experienced maintenance providers, their goal is to partner with you to keep your equipment performing at its best for years to come. You’ll get fair pricing, and have trained and certified professionals to care for your equipment, diagnose problems, and perform reliable repairs.
Want to learn more about getting the right AC maintenance contract for your equipment and your needs? Check out our handy guide: HVAC Preventative Maintenance Contracts: How to Choose The Best One for Your Infrastructure.