An air conditioning tune up costs $75 to $185 depending on the checklist of services provided.
Details are below.
An AC should be serviced every two or three years in its first decade, and every year or two as it ages.
AC Tune Up Overview
This post discusses these AC tune up topics and questions:
- Air conditioner tune up checklist
- Cost of an AC tune up
- How often should the air conditioning be serviced?
- Is an AC tune up service agreement a good idea?
- Beware of “foot in the door” scams
AC Tune-up: What and Why?
An AC tune up is basic cleaning, checking and maintenance to the entire air conditioning system.
The purpose of an air conditioning tune up is to:
- Ensure the AC system is running at peak performance
- To diagnose minor repair issues before they lead to major mechanical failure
To run as efficiently as possible, the air conditioning system must be clean, in good repair, have a full refrigerant charge and be properly adjusted.
Air Conditioner Tune Up Checklist
Here’s the checklist of what is done and its purpose.
1). Clean the interior of the AC: The condensing unit is the entire outdoor unit. The AC tech will remove the top that includes the fan and remove accumulated debris from inside the unit.
2). Adjust the fan for balance: An imbalanced fan won’t properly disperse heat. It might also make noise and eventually fail.
3). Clean the outdoor coil (condensing coil) and indoor coil (evaporator coil): When in air conditioning mode, heat is picked up through the indoor coil and released through the outdoor coil.
When the coils are dirty, the transfer of heat is diminished, and your AC won’t cool your home quickly or adequately.
The coils have radiator-like fins on them that get clogged with yard debris, dust and dirt, pet hair, mold and other pollutants.
Typically a cleaning solution is sprayed onto the coils and allowed to sit for a few minutes. Then, it might be sprayed off or gently brushed and then sprayed off. It takes more care to clean the indoor coil, because spraying it off with a hose is not always possible.
4). Check refrigerant lines and levels and add refrigerant if needed: The refrigerant flows through the coils and copper lines connecting them. It is the liquid that captures, carries and dumps heat.
If the AC is low on refrigerant, it is leaking. The source of the leak – often a fitting or tiny hole in the line – must be repaired before adding refrigerant.
During the inspection, the refrigerant caps will be checked for tightness.
5). Inspect electrical components: Capacitors and other electrical components can be tested for wear. Replacing one of these inexpensive parts during the tune up might prevent the AC from failing during a hot stretch of summer.
6). Clean and flush the drain system: Moisture inside your home condenses on the indoor coil, collects in a pan and leaves through a drain. This dehumidifies the air in your home to make it more comfortable.
As you can imagine, moisture and dirt will eventually produce mold. The “sludge” will block the drain, and the condensate will begin leaking. This causes a mess and water damage.
Maintenance should include cleaning the pan, clearing out the drain and flushing the drain line.
7). Clean and adjust the blower assembly: This assembly is in your furnace or air handler. The blower needs to run at the right speed to produce correct airflow for your system and ductwork. It can be adjusted, if necessary. A non-sealed motor bearing and other moving parts will be lubricated.
8). Check the air filter: A dirty, clogged air filter causes several problems. It should be replaced when dirty.
9). Check the cabinet and ductwork for leaks: More thorough AC tune ups will include inspection of the furnace or air handler cabinet and the visible ducts. Leaking air can account for a loss of 25% of the cooled air. The loss causes your AC to work too hard and it still might not adequately cool your home.
10). A report might be produced: Expect a checklist from the HVAC technician. It might have comments about the condition of the system and what was done to optimize efficiency and performance.
You might also get an estimate for required repairs such as stopping a refrigerant leak, charging the system with refrigerant, fixing leaking ducts, etc.
Before you agree to major repairs or AC replacement, see information on scams below.
AC Tune Up Cost
As noted, the cost ranges from $75 to $185 and sometimes more.
Low-cost AC tune up: A tune up costing less than $125 can mean several things. First, it might not be very thorough. Ask what’s on the checklist before you make the appointment. If the points on this list are not on their list, then it won’t be a complete tune up.
A second reason to give cheap tune ups is that the company is trying to acquire new customers. This is usually the case and perfectly reasonable.
The third reason is more sinister – the technician plans to find something wrong with your AC, so it can turn a $75 AC tune up into $thousands in repairs. More below.
High-cost AC tune up: A charge of $150 or higher usually means the AC company has plenty of business, and they want to be adequately compensated for their time. Just make sure their checklist is complete.
Air Conditioning Tune Up Frequency
Most ACs require cleaning and maintenance every 2-3 years. You can decrease the need for a tune up by hosing off the outdoor coil a few times during the season and when you shut off the unit for the year.
Cleaning the indoor coil and checking the drainage can also be DIY tasks. This video shows how to clear the drain trap and line.
If your unit is more than 10 years old, an annual inspection and tune up will improve its performance and longevity. Minor issues might also be uncovered, such as a slow refrigerant leak, that will prevent major failures if repaired.
Is an AC Tune Up Service Agreement a Good Idea?
These are also called HVAC service contracts and service agreements.
These contracts cost $135 to $325 per year and include a tune up for your entire HVAC system.
Service agreements often include perks too such as:
- Priority repair service: You’ll go to the front of the line if your AC or furnace breaks down. This might include not paying a higher rate for service calls at night or on the weekend.
- Discounts: Expect 5% to 15% off on repairs and parts with a contract.
Our recommendation: An AC tune up / service contract is not a good value when the AC or HVAC system is under warranty.
Once the warranty expires, usually in 10 years or 12 years, then a service contract can be a good value.
Compare agreements from several HVAC companies. Evaluate their costs and what services they provide. This comparison will show which contract is the best value to you.
Beware of Scams
Regardless of the AC tune up cost, the technician might be looking for bogus repair issues.
Again, most HVAC technicians are honest. They’re unwilling to damage their reputation by becoming known as a scammer. Word travels really fast these days – Google reviews, Yelp, the Better Business Bureau and similar platforms.
Common fake repair claims include:
- The compressor is about to fail
- The blower motor is about to fail
- One or both coils are leaking
- The furnace heat exchanger is cracked (yes, they might inspect that while looking at the indoor coil)
Signs of these mechanical issues include poor cooling, high utility bills, noisy operation and possibly chemical smells.
If your AC or HVAC system is having problems, our Common AC Problems and Troubleshooting Guide is a useful resource.
If none of these are present, you should be suspicious about such diagnoses.
Get a second opinion: If any major repair is recommended, it is worth getting a second opinion from an HVAC company with a good reputation.
Hiring a Company for your AC Repair
We just recommended getting a second opinion on major repairs from a company with a good reputation.
It makes even more sense to do your research before you hire the AC company.
Read their reviews. Check the BBB rating.
Another option is to use our Free Local Quotes partner. The HVAC companies in the service are local and pre-screened for experience. They are licensed and insured.
There is no cost or obligation for using the service.
Looking for tune up of furnace? Read our Furnace Tune Up Guide here.