Facebook tracking pixel
(707) 539-4533 |  Sonoma Napa and Marin Counties

updated 6/14/22


Maintaining an AC system over the years so that it performs efficiently at all times requires effort and skill. An experienced air conditioning installation technician will make sure that a new system is put into place properly from the very beginning. Skilled techs can also perform routine maintenance to keep an existing unit in great shape. A correctly installed unit will run well, is energy efficient and reliable as well.


Ensuring that all elements of the system are clean, efficient, and running well is essential. There are many different components that a skilled technician will take the time to inspect and repair when performing maintenance services for a client. Reliable air conditioning maintenance is a key element to having a well working unit that keeps a home cool and keeps costs low over the months and years.


Homeowners need to choose central air conditioning service providers that they can trust. Whether a brand new unit must be installed or an old unit needs repairs or replacement, a good service technician will take care of all of the work in a timely manner. Basic upkeep is the best way to make sure that a system stays in great condition over the years so that it can perform well, season after season.



HVAC 101 Everything you need to know


Once the temperature outside starts to rise, homeowners will want to be able to turn on their AC unit and cool down the interior of their home. If something is wrong like a filter has not been changed out, or debris has built up in the outside unit, it can damage the system. A maintenance technician has the tools and knowledge necessary to properly and thoroughly inspect a unit at any point in the season. Each element will be carefully checked over, and potential problems can be taken care of right away so that homeowners will enjoy a cool and comfortable interior temperature.


Letting an AC unit go without repairs or basic upkeep can eventually have real consequences for a homeowner. Repairs that may have once been so simple could become quite costly as time goes on. Reliable air conditioning maintenance provided by a skilled tech is the smartest way to avoid issues in the future. Being proactive about repairs is a great way to keep costs down and prevent future headaches. There is no reason to go without AC, so having a unit serviced regularly is an ideal option for homeowners wanting to stay cool and comfortable.


It actually saves homeowners money in both the short and long term to have an experienced air conditioning installation performed by an expert. A brand new unit should be energy efficient, which will keep cooling costs down. Home heating and cooling expenses can be extremely high if a home is not well insulated, or if a unit is old and not running at peak performance. Hiring dependable air conditioning repairs services is the best way to keep any system operating well each year.


Air Conditioner Maintenance 101

When you first install a new air conditioner, the HVAC technician will make sure that everything is running smoothly and that the system is operating at peak efficiency. However, over time, that system will inevitably start to degrade. Parts start to experience wear and tear, dust begins to collect in the unit and the filters, refrigerant gradually leaks from the coils and lines, and next thing you know your power bill is starting to creep up every month. Every machine that’s ever been invented goes through this same process, and air conditioning units are certainly no exception.


Luckily, you don’t have to take this lying down. If you’re proactive and stay on top of regular cleaning and maintenance, you can significantly extend the lifespan of your air conditioner while also making sure it continues to run smoothly and efficiently. That means no cold spots, no irritating short cycling, and no increases in your electricity bill. A well-maintained air conditioner should easily last for a decade or more if nothing out of the ordinary happens to it.


On the other hand, allowing your A/C unit to go without basic upkeep will result in real consequences for any homeowner. Small, easy-to-fix problems will inevitably become large, expensive ones, and you could be forced to choose between shelling out for major repairs or having to buy a new air conditioner altogether. That’s not the only thing that will cost you money, either. A clogged air filter, dirty vents, or worn-down parts will all cut down on the efficiency of the HVAC system, which means a greater power drain – and a drain on your wallet.


If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry. We’ve put together this simple guide to basic air conditioner upkeep and maintenance to help you stay cool all summer without breaking the bank.


Professional Maintenance

While there are plenty of things you can do personally to take care of your air conditioner, one of the most important actions you can take is picking up the phone. Once the system has been installed, we recommend bringing the HVAC technician back once a year to conduct annual preventative maintenance on the unit. This might seem like an unnecessary expense, but it’s the only way to catch certain problems before they arise, as well as keep the refrigerant levels high and other important technical fixes.


The main function of these maintenance appointments is so the technician can open up the unit (or units, if you have a split-system air conditioner) and give the whole thing a thorough inspection. They’ll take a look at all the important moving parts inside the air conditioner to make sure they’re running as intended, and take note of anything that could become a problem later on. In most cases, they’ll be able to make small fixes to head off the future issue before it comes. The technician will also look over the electrical system to make sure there are no loose connections or frayed wires that could damage the system. They’ll also typically do some cleaning inside the air conditioner so there’s no dust gumming up the works.


One of the most essential tasks of an HVAC technician is flushing and measuring the refrigerant levels inside the air conditioner. Even if you’re willing to roll the dice and go a little while longer before checking the internal parts of the unit, you shouldn’t leave the refrigerant for longer than a year without being replenished. Refrigerant is essentially the lifeblood of any air conditioner. Letting it flow back and forth between the condenser and evaporator coils is how the machine generates cold air, so if the levels get too low, the air coming from the vents won’t be as cool and crisp as it’s supposed to be. This forces the air conditioner to work extra hard to make up for the warmer air, using more electricity and causing more wear and tear on the internal components.


A visiting technician will also generally take a look at your thermostat as well. It might not be the first thing you think about when your air conditioner is having problems, but a properly-functioning thermostat is a requirement for the whole system to work. If the sensor inside the thermostat is miscalibrated or damaged, or the thermostat itself is having problems communicating with the air conditioner, then the system won’t know when to turn itself on and off.


These regular maintenance visits will go a long way toward keeping your air conditioner running smoothly. We recommend scheduling your yearly appointment in the spring, right before the weather starts to get warm. That way, by the time you need to start using the A/C, everything will be in full working order and you won’t end up with any nasty surprises.


Air Filters

Air conditioners can cost thousands of dollars to purchase and install, but failing to take care of the $25 air filter can bring the whole system low. The filter is one of the most important components of any HVAC system. It sits in between the cooling elements of the air conditioner and the entrance to the ducts (or the exit vent if you have a mini-split unit) and filters dust, pollen, and other junk from the air before it reaches your home. Since air conditioners draw in air from the outside, the filters are necessary to keep you and your family clear of allergies and other respiratory health effects.


The downside of an air filter is that placing anything in between the blower fan and the exit vents is going to restrict the airflow somewhat. This is especially true if you have a HEPA filter with a high MERV rating, meaning that its filtration capabilities are very fine. A fine filter will keep just about anything out of the air in your house, but it also blocks airflow and wastes a certain amount of energy. Finding a good balance between airflow and filtration is something you’ll have to do for yourself, but we recommend checking the documentation that came with your air conditioner when you bought it. There’s almost always a list of recommended air filters in there you can follow.


Besides buying the right filter, the other thing you should do to maximize the airflow through your HVAC system is cleaning or replacing the filter regularly. There are two types of filters you can buy for an air conditioner: disposable and washable filters. The disposable filters tend to come in packs of three or more, and should just be thrown away when they get too dirty. Generally, you’ll want to replace the filter about once a month or so, but that can vary. When you buy a pack of disposable filters, the box will typically tell you how often you should replace them.


Like the name suggests, washable filters can be cleaned and reused over and over again. They’re usually more expensive than the disposable option but they can last for years if you’re good about cleaning them and don’t accidentally damage the fabric. Reusable filters should be cleaned about once a month with soap and water and rinsed off with a hose. Make sure you give the filter time to dry before putting it back in the air conditioner though, otherwise mold can start to grow and the fan will blow spores into the ducts.


A dirty air filter will drive up your power bill and damage the internal components of the unit by severely restricting the airflow through the vents. Just like with low refrigerant levels, reduced airflow forces the A/C unit to work overtime to make up for the drop in efficacy, leading to wear and tear as well as a spike in power usage. Luckily, this is a very easy piece of maintenance. Anybody can clean a dirty air filter in the sink in about five to ten minutes, and it just slots right back into place in the evaporator unit when you’re done – no professional help required there.


Cleaning and Dusting

The air filters aren’t the only parts of the HVAC system that you should be cleaning regularly. The vents and registers that allow air to pass in and out of the unit should be dusted and cleaned off to prevent reduced airflow. You can get started with a feather duster or broom to get most of the dust off, but we recommend unscrewing the vent covers and letting them soak in soapy water for a few minutes just to be sure. You don’t have to do a full cleaning every time, but you should at least do some dusting pretty regularly.


The same goes for the vents leading into the ductwork. Even the best air filter won’t get absolutely everything, and you might be surprised at how much dust can accumulate up there. Dust, pet hair, and other contaminants can also float up from the room and get caught in the vent covers, so you should brush them off at least once a week. This keeps air flowing freely from the ducts into your house so you don’t make the air conditioner work any harder than it needs to. Failure to clean your vents can result in the same problems as a clogged air filter: wear and tear and a steadily rising power bill.



New Call-to-action


The ducts themselves also need to be cleaned, but we don’t recommend trying to do that by yourself. Using the hose attachment on your vacuum to suck up some of the dust you can see in there will help, but they should really be fully cleaned every once in a while. The schedule for duct cleaning will vary depending on the size of your house and the climate you live in, but it should be between two and five years. An HVAC technician can take a look at your home, inspect your ductwork, and let you know about how often you should be getting them cleaned.


The reason why you shouldn’t handle deep duct cleaning by yourself is the complexity of the work and the small margin for error. A full cleaning requires the ducts to be taken apart, scrubbed and purified completely, and then put back together. This requires a certain level of technical knowledge that most homeowners never need to acquire. It’s also fairly delicate work, since the ducts themselves can be surprisingly fragile and easy to damage. Any damage to the duct, even the smallest leak, will reduce the efficiency of your entire HVAC system and gradually push your power bills higher.


The potential presence of mold is another reason why you should leave duct cleaning to the HVAC professionals. Mold growing in the ductwork can be extremely dangerous if the spores are blown into your home. Mold spores can cause serious health effects if inhaled, and they’re usually too small to be seen by the human eye. If mold is detected in your ducts, an HVAC technician will have to essentially disinfect every inch of the ductwork to make sure it’s all dead. If even a few spots of mold survive, they’ll continue to release spores and just reinfest the entire duct system.


Protecting an Outdoor A/C Unit

Unless you have a small window air conditioner, there’s a good chance you’re using a split-system A/C. As you might have guessed already, a split-system air conditioner is split into two separate units. One unit is located inside your home and houses the blower fan and the evaporator coil, while the other unit is outside and holds the compressor and the condenser coil. The condenser unit is typically made of tougher metal so it can hold up to the elements outside, but there are steps you can take to make sure it’s even more well-protected.


When you set up your split-system air conditioner, the HVAC contractor should have also installed a flat, rectangular slab of concrete underneath the condenser unit. This is called a condenser pad, and it helps to protect the outside unit by keeping it level and lifted off the ground. If you don’t have a pad for your condenser unit, you should look into getting one installed. If the unit isn’t too heavy, you can skip the expensive concrete construction and just pick up a rubber composite pad from any HVAC supply company. They’re still pricy, but it won’t be nearly as bad as pouring concrete.


It’s also a good idea to use an extra layer of protection and install isolation feet under the condenser unit. These are just little rubber feet you can clip onto the bottom of the unit to keep it from sitting flush on the pad. Lifting the unit off the pad will help protect it from water damage if rain accumulates on the concrete. The feet also keep the unit from vibrating directly on the concrete pad while it’s running, which can scrape up the bottom and cause some damage.


Condenser units are designed to be at least somewhat weather-resistant, but there are some things you can do to increase the protection. One of the most important is placing the unit in a location with plenty of shade. Any machine, air conditioners included, will degrade faster when it’s baking all day in the rays of the sun, and the heat will also make it more difficult to cool the refrigerant in the coils. If there’s not enough shade in your yard, you can block the sun with a few well-placed shrubs or bushes to cover the unit. Just make sure there’s enough room for a technician to get through.


We also recommend using an air conditioner cover to protect the condenser in the winter. Make sure you use an actual A/C cover designed for this purpose instead of a tarp. Putting a tarp over the unit will protect it from sunlight and weather, but it also traps moisture inside and can lead to rust. Proper covers include ventilation so moisture can escape without allowing snow or rain inside. If you’re not expecting any snow, you can always just cover the top of the unit with some plywood and hold it down with a couple bricks to keep debris from falling through the grill.


Repairing Broken Parts

If you notice anything different about the way your air conditioner is operating, there may be something wrong inside the unit. Some common signs of broken or damaged parts include strange noises or odors, ice inside the unit, water dripping from the unit, short cycling (unit turning on and off quickly), or an unexpected spike in electricity usage. Any of these signs could mean something inside your air conditioner is breaking down, and you should get it taken care of as soon as possible. Allowing a small problem to continue will only create bigger issues down the line, so your best bet is to handle any repairs as soon as they arise.


For air conditioner repairs, it’s best to work with an HVAC technician you know and trust. If you’ve been keeping up on your regular yearly maintenance, you should use the same contracting company for any repairs. Their familiarity with your system will help them spot anything abnormal, and it’s always valuable to have repair technicians who you can trust to do good work for a reasonable price.


We recommend listening to the advice of your HVAC technician when it comes to repairs. However, you shouldn’t go ahead with anything until you’ve received a full estimate for the cost of fixing the problem. Even if you trust your contractor, getting an estimate in writing is an important part of the process. This gives you a chance to plan around the cost as well as representing protection from any sudden price hikes after the job is complete. If a contractor refuses to offer a full written estimate before a job, that should be considered a red flag and you may want to rethink your relationship with that particular HVAC repair company.


Getting an estimate is also important because it gives you a chance to decide if it’s actually worth going through with the repairs. In most cases the answer will be yes, but there are some scenarios where purchasing a new air conditioner is more cost-effective than repairing an old one. A good air conditioner should only require repairs every few years. If you find that your A/C unit is breaking down more and more frequently, that could be a sign that it’s time to upgrade to a new one. The cost of buying a new A/C can be high, but those repair bills will really start to add up if you’re having to pay them once or twice a year.


One good rule of thumb you can follow is to take the cost of the repairs and multiply that number by the age of your current A/C in years. If the result is higher than the cost of a new unit (around $5,000) then you’re better off upgrading. For example, an $800 repair is worth paying for if your air conditioner is only two or three years old, since you can expect it to keep running for years to come. However, you shouldn’t really be spending $800 to fix a decade-old air conditioner since it’s only going to require more repairs.


An HVAC Contractor You Can Trust

The key to maintaining an HVAC system is to have a knowledgeable and trustworthy contractor on your team. A professional can give you advice when you need it, handle any maintenance and repairs, and even install a new air conditioner when the time comes. It’s pretty similar to having a good auto mechanic you can keep going back to over and over.


If you live in the Bay Area and you’re looking for somebody to handle your HVAC service, repairs, and installation, you can get in touch with Valley Comfort Heating & Air through our website here, over the phone at (707) 539-4533, or at our in-person location in Santa Rosa, CA.


Schedule Now