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Homeowners: Minimize the Need for Air Conditioning Repair Service

By: Mike Thomas

Performing routine air conditioning maintenance takes away a lot of unnecessary stress. The key is to understand how your system works. Knowing that airflow is important to the optimum performance makes changing filters on a regular basis a no-brainer. Maintaining the unit means you make fewer emergency calls. You get to keep the money you would have spent on air conditioning repair service.

Refrigeration Cycle

Your unit is likely a split system, meaning you have an outdoor cabinet that houses the compressor and condenser. Inside the house is the evaporator coil. The two are connected by lines that conduct refrigerant through the cooling cycle. The cycle consists of four stages:

  • Condensing coil.
  • Expansion valve.
  • Evaporator coil.
  • Compressor.

The compressor pumps refrigerant through the condensing coil at high pressure. A fan cools the refrigerant as it moves through the coil, forced into liquid form. The next stage is a metering device called an expansion valve. The high pressure liquid refrigerant is allowed to expand into a gas. This continues as it travels through the evaporator coil. Heat is absorbed into the expanding gas making the evaporator cold enough to cool the air. Finally, the refrigerant goes back to the compressor where the cycle begins again. The air conditioning repair service technician checks refrigerant levels by connecting gauges to the high and low pressure lines.


The fan pulls existing air into the return air vent. This is larger than the other vents and is usually up towards the ceiling. Warm air goes up, so this is the best place to start recycling it. The warm air travels to the filter on the way to the cooling ducts. The evaporator is strategically located at the entrance to these. Warm air is cooled as it passes through the fins of the evaporator. It goes through the ducts, exiting at the cooling vents in the rooms of your home.

Maintaining Optimum Performance

You can see the importance of changing the filter every month. The last thing you want is restricted airflow. Ignoring this five minute task over long periods slows the flow of air to the point where the system stops cooling. Air conditioning repair service technicians check this first when troubleshooting a unit that is unable to blow cold air.

Condenser Coil

Keep the condenser coil clean. The area around it should be clear of anything that can impede airflow. Wash it out with a garden hose around mid-spring. Using the high pressure nozzle, spray from the inside out. Dirt and debris will run down the sides as you work.


Maintain the efficiency of your return air duct. Make sure the vent remains clear; prohibit hanging decorations that cover or block any part of it. Remove it once every six months and clean it with warm water and a gentle detergent.

Clean the floor vents in the same way you scrubbed the return air vent. While they are off, use the utility vacuum to clean the duct as far as the hose will reach. You may pull out a few toys; this does a world of good for the airflow.

It is a good idea to keep some filters on hand. Buy a stack each year at daylight savings time. Every first Saturday of the month, change the filter. Take good care of your air conditioner and it will take good care of you.


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†Average repair and replacement costs as reported in a nationwide survey: A Study of Homeowners Appliance and Home System Service Experiences Decision Analyst (2011) and reprinted with their written permission.

Home protection plans are subject to exclusions and limitations including repairs or replacements of covered home system components and appliances. See contract for details.