The homeowner’s guide to A/C inspections

ac-inspection

 

When it’s 100 degrees in the shade and the kids are all home for the summer, the last thing you need is for your A/C to break down. HVAC service providers are usually much busier taking care of critical issues in the summer heat. Because of their busier schedule, an A/C breakdown in the summer can make it harder to find a company to respond to your call quickly, and it may also cost you more due to the high demand. 

To avoid being in this pickle, consider doing preventive maintenance. It doesn’t take much time and costs less than waiting for the system to break down completely. It’s so important to keep your HVAC unit maintained throughout the year for optimal performance. Your regular inspections can also help your system run with more energy efficiency, saving you money on your utility bill all year long.  

Here’s all you need to know about A/C inspections, including the best times to schedule them, how much they typically cost, and what your provider should include in the inspection. 

 

How does a common home HVAC system work?

Air conditioners vary in size and cooling capabilities, but they all work pretty much the same way. Air conditioners take in air from indoor spaces, remove both heat and humidity, and blow that now cold air back into the space — and send the hot and humid air outside. 

How does an air-conditioning system make all the magic happen? It’s all done with the help of a chemical known as refrigerant. Mechanically speaking, a cooling system has a condenser, a compressor coil and an evaporator coil. As the air comes into the unit, the evaporator coil absorbs heat, the compressor raises the temperature of the refrigerant, the heat is sent outside, and cooler air is sent back into the home.

 

What are the most common home A/C system problems?

While A/C systems often run for long periods without issues, there are a few common problems you’re likely to encounter with your A/C system — often stemming from a lack of general care and cleaning. Let’s review a few of the more common A/C system problems.

  • Exhaust venting problems. Over time, the exhaust vent on your system can get rusted out or slip off of the fitting, creating space for carbon monoxide to leak into your home. This problem can also shut down the system as a safety measure and will make the system inoperable until repaired.  
  • Clogged condensate drain line. When you see water leaking from your unit, you may have a clogged drain line. It’s important to have these lines checked and repaired so as not to risk damaging the coils, which are expensive to repair.  
  • Dirty blower motor. A dirty blower motor can not only shut down your air-conditioning system but also make the system less efficient, costing you more on your electric bill. 
  • Bad wiring. The elements can get to your wiring, causing poor connections to the electrical components of your unit. The wiring may need to be cleaned or tightened from time to time to keep things running smoothly. 
  • Refrigerant problems. Without correct refrigerant levels, you will likely experience issues with cooling. Without the correct refrigerant balance, a compressor can become damaged from overworking itself. Without enough refrigerant, the A/C may (unironically) freeze up, which will render it inoperable and may lead to a costly repair. 
  • Ductwork leaks or cracks. If ductwork is not in good condition, much of your cooled air will be lost to the squirrels who have taken up residence in your attic. Also, squirrels (or rats) can get into your attic and damage the ductwork themselves.
  • Cracked heat exchanger. Heat exchangers can become cracked over time, which can lead to dangerous carbon monoxide leaking into your home. The heat exchanger should always be checked with every inspection.
  • Dirty filters. Dirty filters can reduce airflow into the system. Filters need to be changed regularly or several things can happen: reduced air quality, increased A/C bills, and the A/C system can freeze up entirely. This is a very simple fix that should be done by any homeowner at least every three months.  
  • Thermostat issues. In some cases, the thermostat itself could be the problem and not the mechanical components of your HVAC equipment. Be sure to rule out that the thermostat might be making your system malfunction. 
  • Electric control failure. Wear and tear on the compressor and fan control can become an issue when the air-conditioning unit turns off and on frequently, which will happen more often if the unit is not properly sized for the space. Service providers should check the connections to ensure they are not worn out from use.

 

How often should your home A/C system be inspected?

If you want to keep your air-conditioning system running efficiently and avoid major complications down the road, it is recommended to schedule services twice a year. The best times to schedule your inspections are in the spring and fall. 

Spring helps you prepare in advance for the hot summer months to come, and a fall appointment helps prepare the system for downtimes as the months typically get cooler. You can, of course, schedule an inspection any time you like. Just be aware that schedules for HVAC contractors tend to be much busier in the summer months when the hot weather hits, and also busy in the winter when they offer both heating and air-conditioning services.

 

What is checked during a home A/C system inspection?

HVAC repair providers will likely have a predetermined preventive maintenance checklist they use for every inspection. Don’t be afraid to ask HVAC service providers for a list of what is included in their inspections and compare costs. Most HVAC contractors will have this information on hand. You can also browse their websites, which typically include these specifics.  

Here are a few of the items that should be on any HVAC inspection list. 

  • Replacement of all air filters 
  • Clean out dirt, leaves and bushes around the outside of the unit
  • Cleaning of the drain line
  • Visual inspection of your drain pan and switch
  • Test the thermostat (wiring, shut-off, fan shut-off)
  • Check electrical connections and components, and ensure all are tightened and safe
  • Visual inspection of vents, checking for blockages
  • Check and inspect the condensate pump (when applicable)
  • Verify refrigerant charge is not under or over the recommended specifications
  • Test amp draws on the condenser and blower motor
  • Clean the condenser coil
  • Visual inspection of ductwork, checking for leaks
  • Inspect capacitors and contactors for air leakage
  • Test all safety controls 

How much does an A/C system inspection cost?

Typical costs for an HVAC tuneup and system inspection range around $75 to $200. As for the cost of hiring an HVAC technician for additional repairs, that labor for an HVAC service will likely cost you around $75 to $175 per hour plus the cost of parts. Generally speaking, the costs spent on preventive maintenance will be returned to you in the form of a more reliable and longer-lasting air-conditioning unit. 

 

Costly A/C system repairs are covered under a Cinch warranty

Homeownership is a wonderful thing, but we sometimes worry about unexpected costs that might come up. New A/C units are expensive, so keeping your current system running well for as long as possible is a big help. If you’d like to find some peace of mind, consider getting a Built-in Systems plan from Cinch Home Services. Cinch home protection plans include HVAC maintenance and all significant expenses you’re likely to encounter with your HVAC systems — including costly ductwork repairs. 

Check out the full list of appliances and built-in systems covered by Cinch home protection plans. Get your instant quote today! 

 

Learn the ins and outs of home HVAC repair, from how much it costs to when to schedule your inspections.