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These life-extending AC tips boost efficiency & reliability

Your home's central air conditioner is like a car. If well-cared for, your AC system will last longer, be more reliable and perform better. Below, our experts provide nine tips for making your central AC unit last longer. But first, you might be asking, "How long should an air conditioner last?" Our technicians agree that a high-quality central air unit should last about 15 years when it is well-maintained.

Follow these nine maintenance tips to help your AC unit last a long time.


Tip 9 – Ensure your AC system is installed correctly

Our AC experts see it all the time: Half of all heating, cooling and ventilation (HVAC) equipment is installed improperly! If you're in this group, you could be paying 30-percent extra on your heating/cooling bills, as calculated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

An improperly installed central air conditioner can bring bad consequences, like  

  • Inflating your energy bills
  • Causing your AC system to overwork
  • Prematurely wearing out air conditioner parts
  • Taking years off the life of your AC unit

When you get your next AC tune-up, ask your service pro to verify that your HVAC system is installed correctly. And when you buy a new central air conditioner, don't try "saving" a few bucks with a do-it-yourself (DIY) installation, or by hiring an unlicensed, inexperienced or un-screened technician. There's a good chance it will result in improper installation and cost unnecessary money and stress – and you want your central air unit to last!


Tip 8 – Change the filter regularly

An HVAC filter helps trap contaminants like dirt, dust, and pet dander, preventing them from circulating through your house. But homeowners often forget to replace their central air conditioner filter!

In the cooling season, a dirty AC filter can cause the cooling system to:

  • Work harder
  • Lose efficiency
  • Suffer unnecessary wear and tear

Generally, homeowners who use inexpensive, replaceable HVAC filters should change their filter monthly or whenever it appears dirty.

Follow these tips for keeping your furnace/AC filter clean:

  • Check your owner's manual to know the recommended filter type, replacement frequency and other helpful info (or ask a technician during your spring AC tune-up). 
  • Pick a day each month that's easy to remember (e.g. the first of the month) to inspect or replace your filter and put reminders on your calendar.
  • Inspect the filter and replace it when it's dirty or reaches the date of recommended replacement, whichever comes first.

Note: If you're a Home Service Plus customer in Minnesota, you get exclusive discounts and free shipping (usually 1-2 business days) on filter replacements through our partnership with the Discount Filter Store.


Tip 7 – Fix leaky AC ducts

The typical home loses 25 percent of its cool air through leaky AC ductwork! You can save as much as 20 percent off your cooling bills by having an HVAC contractor seal and insulate your air ducts, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Does your AC run too much? The illustration reveals where your home may be leaking air, causing your central air conditioner to work harder than it should.


Source: U.S. EPA, Top 5 Ways to Chill Out this Summer with ENERGY STAR

Tip 6 – Keep air vents clear for proper airflow

Many homeowners inadvertently decrease the efficiency of their HVAC system by blocking air vents and reducing its airflow. This may overwork the air conditioner and keep it from lasting as long as it should!

Take these simple actions to improve or maintain your AC system's airflow:

  • Make sure your home's air vents aren't blocked by furniture, drapes, curtains and other objects. Blocking just one vent can throw off the balance of your entire cooling system!
  • If your vents have dampers – valves or plates regulating air flow inside the duct – make sure they are fully open.
  • Don't try to save money by blocking or closing vents in rarely used rooms without first consulting a professional – it can unbalance your entire cooling system and lead to breakdowns.

Professional air conditioning maintenance should include an airflow check. Good HVAC contractors use special tools to measure airflow and diagnose air pressure problems. Having proper airflow will help your central air unit last longer.


Tip 5 – Use fans during milder weather

You can help your central air conditioner last by resting it on milder days of the Minnesota summer. As a bonus, you'll save money on your energy bill!

Here are some of the best ways to cool your home instead of running the air conditioner:

  • Use portable fans to stay comfortable on moderate summer days.
  • You may benefit from using your HVAC system's fan to move cool air through your home, even when you're not running the AC. The HVAC fan can distribute air from cooler spaces, like the basement, to cool other areas of your home.
  • Ceiling fans may help move air from your home's cooler areas to its warmer areas that you'd like to cool down.
  • Window fans can be effective at cooling your home down, but only if you know how to use them properly. Visit The Department of Energy's Fans for Cooling page to learn how!
  • Porches, patios, decks and other outdoor living spaces  can help Minnesotans can stay comfortable in summer. Keep shaded with trees, umbrellas or awnings. You can even make your own outdoor breeze with a fan, which will also help keep the mosquitoes away!

Every home is a little different, so experiment to find out what cooling strategy works best for yours! You can always call a professional heating-and-cooling company and ask if this is a service they offer.


Tip 4 – Know how to use your programmable thermostat

In homes with a programmable thermostat, only about half use the thermostat's 'program' setting to reduce energy and lessen stress on their heating-and-cooling system (source: How People Actually Use Thermostats from Univ. of California).

Follow these thermostat tips to help your air conditioner last:

  • If you have a programmable thermostat, set up your program and make sure it is in the 'program' setting – not 'stay' or 'hold'.
  • Program or manually turn your thermostat back 7-10 degrees (cooler) when you're away from home, like (e.g. while at work). It will ease your air conditioner and help you save up to 10% on your energy bills!
  • To save money and preserve your AC system's life, see more of our Thermostat Tips.

Note: If you don't know how to use your programmable thermostat, a HSP technician will help you set up and learn about it during your air conditioner tune-up (see Minnesota cities we serve).


Tip 3 – Maximize your home's efficiency

We discussed sealing and insulating AC ducts in tip #7, but that's only one way to make your home more energy efficient. If you help your home stay cooler in the summer, help extend your central air conditioner's life by reducing its effort.

You can improve your home's efficiency by:

  • Getting a home energy audit. Many energy companies and HVAC contractors offer this service (CenterPoint Energy customers in Minnesota love the Home Energy Squad because it does all the efficiency-boosting work for an outrageously low cost).
  • Following our Energy Saving tips.


Tip 2 – Keep outdoor unit clean & clear

We've seen many outdoor AC units get dirty or covered by objects and vegetation. This makes an air conditioner work harder, while raising the risk it will break and need an AC repair service.

Follow these tips for keeping your outdoor AC unit clean and clear:

  • Don't place objects on top of your central air conditioner unit or lean anything against it.
  • Trim trees and shrubs to keep them clear of your air conditioning equipment.
  • Call a professional if debris or dirt gets inside your AC unit.

Remember, how long your AC unit lasts may depend on how clean you keep it!


Tip 1 – Get an AC tune-up every year

A good central air conditioner tune-up will:

  1. Help your AC unit last longer
  2. Lower energy bills
  3. Lower the risk of a breakdown (during a heat wave)
  4. Help keep your family safe

When choosing an air conditioner service company, we recommend using a well-established business. A business with some history will be more likely to have experienced AC technicians and will probably be around to keep serving you for years to come. It's smart to build a relationship with a trusted HVAC company because sometimes a friendly phone call may be enough to answer your questions or solve your problem.

If you live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area or greater Minnesota (see HSP Service Areas) we'd love for you to give Home Service Plus an opportunity to help make your central AC unit last longer with our comprehensive tune-ups.

Bonus Tip: Don't Buy Cheap Central Air Conditioners

For many things in life, it makes sense to shop for the lowest price. However, when it comes to central air conditioners there is a big gap between the cheapest units and the affordable, high-quality air conditioners. If you shop around strictly for the lowest sticker price, you're probably going to pay more in monthly energy bills and repair costs. Of course, a cheaply made unit will also probably need replaced sooner and have a weak warranty.

We are the state's largest service provider for home AC repair, maintenance and replacement, yet we only sell and install central AC units from two manufacturers: Daikin® and Ruud®. We have tried other central air manufacturers throughout our 80+ years in heating and cooling, but they couldn't provide the level of reliability, comfort and affordability as Ruud and Daikin (we also endorse Mitsubishi Electric® for ductless cooling in homes where central air isn't an option).

At HSP, we offer comprehensive central AC tune-ups to anyone within our MN service areas. We also offer flexible repair and maintenance plans to fit your specific needs and budget. Thanks for reading our tips for extending the life of your air conditioner. Have a fun, safe and cool summer!

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