As we enter the season for air conditioning tune-ups, we would like to offer our company's slogan for residential air conditioning contractors to consider: "Quality Service Has No Substitute." At Difilippo's Service Company, this motto guides our entire philosophy on how we take care of our clients.

Our annual air conditioning tune-ups are an example of how we go the extra mile in reassuring our clients that their hard-earned dollars are well spent with us. Our air conditioning checklist shows how "deep" we take the process. This depth results in far less callbacks and breakdowns in the cooling season and less utility dollars spent for the client.

Attention to detail is key to a good air conditioning tune up. Technicians need to pay attention to the little things before they become big issues later and cause frustration for clients. During our tune-ups, we mark all items that we feel should be repaired or replaced, and allow the client to make the decision on how to proceed. If the client declines, the invoice is marked accordingly. If the item fails at a later point, our company is covered to charge them with no dispute, and we also include a dispatch fee.

We are not the $59.95 tune-up specialists and some of our clients do occasionally stray to the "dark side" for the cheaper price. They always come back, though, because they discover that they get what they pay for with our company. On the other hand, when you charge $175 for a tune-up like we do, you had better provide the value of that price or your clients will walk.

The other important thing to remember is that this checklist provides procedures that require special diagnostic tools. You MUST provide these tools for your technicians. Technicians will not buy them themselves. If you want to "do it right the first time" you must buy the tools. The proper tools are not an expense, they're an investment.

Today's air conditioning systems are much more complex than ever before, and with R410-A, refrigerant charge is critical. Digital gauges with superheat and subcooling probes are essential. Recording static pressure is also important because it creates additional "slow period" opportunities for ductwork repairs/modification and will explain erroneous or unstable superheat/subcooling and comfort issues in the home.

Finally, doing a thorough tune-up allows you to build your company for the future. Difilippo's Service Company started out as a service-only company in 1989. Even after we added an installation department we didn't neglect the service department. We knew that as long as we provided our clients with quality service, they would choose us to handle the replacement of their HVAC system.

Without further ado, here's our air conditioning tune-up checklist. It's served our customers — and our company — well, and we hope it does the same for you.

AIR CONDITIONING SPRING CHECKLIST

  1. Check and clean the thermostat. Make sure all the functions work, the time and day are correct, and the unit is dust free.
  2. Calibrate thermostat (mercury-type), if necessary.
  3. Replace air filter (if necessary).
  4. Perform a visual inspection of the indoor unit. Look for rust, dirt, loose panels, and advise the client about any flammable materials being stored near the unit.
  5. Shut down humidifier for summer (if applicable).
  6. Check the blower assembly. Look for rust or filings from wear, make sure the wires are in good shape and properly attached, and ensure that the entire assembly is secured and tight.
  7. Check and clean the motors and fan, and oil as required.
  8. Check the evaporator coil. Look for oil stains, rust or debris is the pan, and check the fin condition.
  9. Record the unit’s total static pressure.
  10. Check and flush the condensate drain line.
  11. Add biocide pan/pump treatment.
  12. Check the condensate removal pump (if applicable).
  13. Check secondary drain pan (if applicable).
  14. Perform a visual inspection of the outdoor unit. Clean out debris, leaves, and rodents, make sure the panels are secure, check for rust or deterioration, replace missing screws.
  15. Check the outdoor disconnect box. Look for burnt wires or connections, bees or bugs nests, and rust.
  16. Check the condenser coil and recommend cleaning if necessary.
  17. Check refrigerant connections. Look for oil stains, or kinks in the lines, make sure the caps are in good condition.
  18. Inspect all wiring and controls for wear and tightness.
  19. Check and inspect the compressor contactor.
  20. Check relays. Are they functioning? Are there any indications of burnt connectors, bulging, or distortion?
  21. Check the crankcase heater.
  22. Check the compressor.
  23. Check the capacitors.
  24. Check the start assist device (if applicable).
  25. Inspect the pressure switches (if applicable).
  26. Check the time delay relay (if applicable).
  27. Check the accumulator (if applicable). Is it severely rusty? Does it have oil stains?
  28. Check the circuit boards (if applicable).
  29. Check the fan blades for cracks.
  30. Clean the outdoor unit.
  31. Check voltage and amp draw.
  32. Check operating pressures, superheat, and subcooling.
  33. Check the temperature drop across the evaporator coil.
  34. Check the operation sequence.

A thorough tune-up takes time, and you must charge appropriately. But your clients will appreciate your thoroughness when their system continues to work trouble-free throughout a long, hot summer, and they'll come back to you again and again — for annual tune-ups, add-ons, and new systems. Your quality will set you apart.

Vince Difilippo is president of Difilippo's Service Company, Paoli, PA. He can be reached at 610/240-4789, or by e-mail at http://vjdhvac@aol.com.