There is nothing worse than having your air conditioner break in the middle of a long, hot summer. You can ensure your air conditioning unit stays in working order all year long with regular service. Sometimes, however, repairs are necessary whether it’s fixing the evaporator, capacitor, or condenser or recharging the refrigerant. Most air conditioner repairs cost between $167 and $495 with most homeowners reporting that they spend about $318. If you do need a repair, here is some information to help you get it done quickly, professionally, and economically.
Here are some common types of air conditioner problems and their average associated costs:
Refrigerant leak detection and repair: $225-$1600
AC refrigerant recharge: $160-$400
Circuit board replacement: $120-$600
Replace fuses, circuit breakers or relays: $15-$300
Thermostat replacement: $60-$250
Compressor hard start kit: $100-$250
Capacitor or contactor replacement: $90-$400
Compressor replacement: $1350-$1800, depending on size and type
Evaporator coil replacement: $650-$1200
Condensing unit fan motor replacement: $100-$300
Condensate pump replacement: $90-$250
A troubleshooting service call can vary from $75 to $180, depending largely on your geographical location and the time of year in which the call occurs. The time of HVAC professionals is at a premium during the hot summer months.
Your HVAC professional can perform a yearly tune-up of your system for around $80-$100. This yearly maintenance can go far toward heading off major repairs to your system, and provide you with peace of mind and considerable savings in the long term. Additionally, regular servicing of your AC unit can help a home inspector to certify that your unit is working properly in the event you decide to sell your home.
1) Your air conditioner is not working at all. Before calling in a professional to address this issue, you may want to check a few things yourself. Check to see if your thermostat is set to “Cool”. Confirm that your designated cooling temperature is less than the temperature of the room or home. If everything is set correctly, check the electrical panel to be sure you do not have a tripped breaker. If these things all check out and your unit is still not working, it is time to call in a professional.
2) You hear the unit running, but there is little or no cool air coming out of your vents. If your thermostat is set to a reasonable temperature and your home is still uncomfortably warm, your air conditioner is not doing its job correctly.
3) Your air conditioner is making strange noises. You are likely familiar with the typical noises your unit makes as it cycles. In fact, if you live in a warmer climate, your unit’s normal noise is a steady part of the background music of your life. So, when you hear noises that sound different from the norm, it is time to call for repairs.
4) Your air conditioner smells bad. Unusual odors coming from your unit indicate there is dirt, mold, or mildew inside your unit which can circulate contaminated air through your home. Bad smells are more than just a nuisance. They indicate a problem which needs to be addressed right away to avoid health issues for your family.
5) Your air conditioner is short cycling. It is perfectly normal for your air conditioner to cycle on and off to maintain a set temperature throughout your home. However, if you notice that it is turning on and off more frequently than usual and the outside temperature is not particularly warmer than normal, it is possible that your unit is malfunctioning. Short cycling puts extra stress on your air conditioner, and can cause it to fail entirely if not handled quickly.
6) Water is leaking in and around your unit. While a small amount of condensation is normal for your unit, excessive water is an indication of problems. Because your air conditioner has electrical components which must be protected from water damage, you will need to contact an HVAC repair person for help.
7) Your unit is icy or frosty. Just as excessive water indicates a problem, so too ice or frost in your air conditioner is problematic. Blocked or restricted airflow can lead to ice buildup, which can literally cause your unit to freeze.
If you detect any of these signs that your AC is malfunctioning, it is wise to call a professional AC repair pro. After all, the reason you have an air conditioner is for your comfort. If you are uncomfortable, it is time to call for help.
Although your AC may continue to work for a time, if you ignore warning signs of air conditioner troubles, it can be much more costly to repair in the long term. Diminished cooling capacity not only makes your home uncomfortably warm, but it also raises your utility bills significantly as your unit struggles to maintain the desired temperature ineffectively. A system put under strain is likely to overheat, resulting in major damage. Therefore, it is best to have your air conditioner repaired promptly when you discover signs of trouble.
First, it is wise to stick with a company that specializes in HVAC services. While many general handyman companies may do some things with AC units, a company that specializes in air conditioning and heating is always a better option. Because AC repairs can be quite costly, depending on the particular problem, it is best to work with highly trained HVAC professionals to ensure quality work.
1) Do your homework. Check licensing and insurance requirements in your state. Research the background of the company you choose. Licensing information should be clearly displayed on repair trucks, paperwork, and marketing pieces.
2) Make a list. Before you talk with an HVAC repair service, know the model of your system and any maintenance history. Check to see if your unit is still under warranty. Make a list of your concerns to ensure you do not forget anything important for your repair pro to know.
3) Compare prices and service packages. If possible, get at least three estimates for any repair or maintenance work. All estimates should be in writing and should provide a full description of the services to be provided and the materials to be used.
4) Get referrals. Check with family and friends to get the names of HVAC professionals in your area. If that fails to yield results, ask the local Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce in your area for suggestions.
5) Check certifications. Many HVAC professionals belong to the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) or the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA). Both sites provide listings of HVAC contractors by area. Look for contractors whose technicians are certified by North American Technician Excellence (NATE) and partnered with ENERGY STAR.
A few additional things to look for may be whether the repair technicians are courteous and present themselves professionally, and whether company vehicles appear to be well-maintained. These things will indicate, to some extent, the type of workmanship you can expect to receive.
Your HVAC professional can also help you verify that your system is properly matched by providing you with an AHRI Certificate of Certified Product Performance upon request. The certificate verifies that the outdoor unit (condenser) and the indoor unit (evaporator) combination has been certified as a matched system by the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI). For higher efficiency systems, this certification may help you obtain a rebate from your utility or local municipality, if you have to replace your unit in whole or in part. Not all areas offer a rebate, but your technician will likely be able to provide information about the certification process. Fees for performing this certification vary, but generally are relatively inexpensive.
EPA 608 Certification
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that all technicians who open a system containing a controlled refrigerant be certified to do so. There are four levels of certification, one of which is a “universal” certification to allow the HVAC technician to work on any type of equipment containing refrigerant. Your HVAC technician should be certified as “Level II Certified” at a minimum or, preferably, “Universal Certification” to work on your central air conditioner. Obtaining this certification information from your professional HVAC technician may be required in the event you are working with a realtor to sell your home. Costs for certification average $40-$240.
1) Change your filter. The simplest and most effective way to keep your AC running smoothly is changing your filter once a month. By regularly changing your filter, you reduce a lot of the burden on your system. A dirty or clogged filter makes your air conditioner work much harder than does a clean filter. Changing your filters regularly is easy on your budget and easy on your system as well. It will lower your utility bill and extend the life of your AC.
2) Keep your coils clean. The AC coils and fins on the outside of your unit need to be kept clean and clear of obstructions. Leaves and other debris sometimes accumulate around your unit. If obstructions are present, your unit must work harder to function than it should. You can clean your unit with a regular garden hose and a broom. Do not use a pressure washer, as the strong spray could cause harm to your system. A little bit of housekeeping in this regard goes far toward keeping your air conditioner working optimally.
3) Keep surrounding shrubbery trimmed. If you have planted shrubbery around your unit to hide it from view, be sure to leave adequate space around it for the unit to function without obstruction. A quick trim will do the trick.
4) Ensure your dryer vent is not angled toward your AC unit. Lint from your dryer exhaust can cause problems for your unit. Ensure that lint cannot get inside the vents of your air conditioner by simply angling your dryer vent elsewhere.
5) Adjust your thermostat. If you are away for large stretches of time every day, adjust your thermostat to a higher temperature for the time you are away. This will lessen the amount of time your unit has to work each day, and will lengthen its life cycle. An additional benefit will be a lower utility bill each month. Some newer thermostats allow you to pre-program your thermostat to match your schedule so that your home will still be cool when you arrive. Optimizing your system’s usage will maximize its life in the long term.
6) Check your ductwork and seal open spaces. Make sure all your doors and windows are properly sealed to help keep your home cool. Perform a visual inspection of your ductwork occasionally to be sure it is sealed correctly. If ductwork is not properly sealed, cool air will escape before getting into your home. The less cool air that escapes your home, the less your unit will have to work.
7) Schedule an annual tune-up with an HVAC professional. A trained HVAC technician can detect most problems before they become major ones. With a cost of around $100 for a routine maintenance call, the benefits will likely outweigh the costs by a considerable margin. A typical tune-up will include various tests to ensure your unit’s internal parts are functioning correctly, as well as a filter check, and a refrigerant charge if needed. Your technician will likely also clear the drain, and clean your unit thoroughly inside and out.
If you live in a warmer climate, your AC is likely one of the most essential pieces of equipment for your home. The best course is to perform regular routine maintenance to ensure its smooth operation during the warmest months of the year. Annual tune-ups by a professional HVAC technician will increase the lifespan of your unit. When repairs are needed, be sure to hire a technician trained and certified in HVAC repair for best results. Following these guidelines will ensure that you are comfortable and cool through the summer season.