Don’t Cut Corners On Air Conditioning Service. Two Stories That Will Scare You Into A Service Contract
Air conditioning service is a very important part of owning an AC system. However, in order to get the most out of the service, you have to remember to regularly schedule it and to go with a company that is fully certified and knows what they are doing. There have been many horror stories of people scheduling air conditioning services with Handyman and other similar companies that have no business taking apart or lubricating the inside of an air conditioning unit.
Your air conditioning unit is a highly specialized machine that produces cool air reliably throughout your home. If someone incorrectly cleans it or uses the wrong type of lubrication, it can lead to problems that are severe enough to shut the entire system down. While this seems like something you shouldn’t have to worry about; we have heard the horror stories of customers who trusted their AC units in the hands of the wrong people. We have also heard the horror stories of the people who neglected to properly service their AC units and had to deal with the aftermath of their decisions.
However, you don’t have to believe us, because we have compiled the stories of a few of our clients to help you better understand why air-conditioning service is so important. They also serve as a preventative tale of why you need to make sure that you hire a reputable HVAC company to take care of your annual air conditioning service if you want to avoid any future problems.
Don’t cut corners with your annual service
Paul learned the hard way that you don’t want to cut corners when you are scheduling your annual AC service. While it is understandable that everybody wants to trim their budget to try to make up for the growing expenses of life, there are some areas where it is important that you hire only a professional service. Paul learned this when he attempted to hire somebody out of the newspaper for AC service instead of the company that he had been with for the last few years.
It was time for him to renew his annual term contract for the company service plan, and he decided that it was better if he just went with someone else that offered a lower price. While he liked the company that had always come out to his home, he knew he constantly saw advertisements of people who could do the same service for much less money. The flashy advertisements in the newspaper and in the neighborhood mailer were too hard to ignore, so this year he decided that he was going to book one of them and give it a shot.
These people had been advertising for years, so he assumed they must’ve been good at what they did, or they would not have been able to stay in business. It turns out that it wasn’t their efficiency that kept them in business, it was the low rates they were charging because, in reality, their service was anything, but effective. Paul would learn this after he scheduled his service, and then had to deal with the disastrous aftermath.
The day of the air conditioning service everything appeared to be going fine. The weather was nice and warm outside and the skies were clear which made it the perfect day to clean out an outdoor unit and inspect the inside of his AC unit. The team quickly got to work outdoors and removed the cage around his AC unit. There were the average sticks and debris that gather in the cage every year and the crew carefully removed them. Things seemed to be going fine until they got to the cleaning process when he noticed they were having some difficulty reaching the fan blades. Paul wasn’t quite sure that they should even be that close to any of the equipment but he was not a professional and didn’t always pay attention to the process in the past so he just let it go. This would be the first mistake that was made, but Paul didn’t know enough at the time to speak up. Unfortunately, it would not be the last mistake either.
The second error happened while the team was attempting to get inside his indoor unit. They did not have the proper tools to unlock the top of the ductwork while they were inspecting it, and they ended up punching a hole through the seam. Paul was not watching them at this point, so he had no idea that anything happened and the team just placed a simple piece of duct tape over it to resolve the issue. He would not know that this would happen for another couple of weeks after the air conditioning service was long over.
The third error happened inside the air conditioning unit, and it was another thing that Paul would not know about right away. He chose an AC service company that advertised in the community mailers and didn’t bother to try to look them up. If he had, he would have realized that they were not actually an HVAC company. This was the only thing that they did and they didn’t have any background information or experience. All those factors together would lead to some bad situations. As mentioned, no one should ever be inside your HVAC unit unless they are properly trained.
There is always a risk that components and parts can be damaged while the cleaning process is taking place, but something worse happened in Paul’s case. The company placed universal oil in the compressor instead of the correct oil, and the results of that soon proved to be disastrous. These are all beginner’s mistakes, but they are mistakes that took Paul a lot of money and time to clean up. They should have never happened, and they would not have if he had hired a professional for his HVAC cleaning service instead of some group that was offering low-price service calls.
Paul simply thought that anyone advertising an AC service would have the right credentials but he was wrong. We mentioned the three problems that occurred during the service, but now let’s unpack each one by one to make it clear just how badly the service hurt Paul’s AC. When we say he learned a lesson, we mean it because his lesson was extremely costly.
To start, let’s rewind back to when the crew was cleaning out the outdoor AC unit. They took off the cage and were using brushes and tools to reach inside and clean out the debris around the cage. They were pressing on the blades while they cleaned which was not advisable. Generally speaking, any air conditioning service will try to lead the blades alone because it doesn’t take much for the balance to get out of whack resulting in much larger problems.
This issue would be apparent soon as they knocked the fan a few times while fishing out debris and attempting to clean the blades so they looked cleaner. When the AC unit was first powered on Paul thought he heard an odd noise coming from his outdoor unit, but he ignored it because he thought the system was just working through a few kinks since it had been turned off. It turned out though that the fan was off-balance due to the aggressive cleaning so what he was actually hearing was the wobbling fan blades. The noise quickly grew louder and louder over the next few days until Pail called an HVAC company to come out and take a look
He attempted to contact the original company that came out for his air conditioning service, but they told him that they only cleaned AC systems. They were not HVAC professionals and therefore could not actually handle any repair calls. This was news to him and made him a bit uneasy but the service was already done now so all he could do was hope that they hadn’t caused any more damage.
The new HVAC technician that came out to his home explained that his blades had been bent slightly out of balance, probably during the cleaning process. The technician reiterated that the fan blades should not have been touched during the cleaning process, but since no one could go back in time and correct the situation the best thing to do was attempt to correct the problem. The technician slowly bent the fan panels that were out of whack by about half a millimeter at a time (at least that is what it looked like to Paul). He worked very slowly and steadily while attempting to get the fan back into balance.
The HVAC technician also explained that what he was doing was a bit unorthodox. He said that they don’t usually bend the fan blades to correct an issue, and would rather just replace the entire fan because it is a very precise piece of equipment. However, he was aware that the AC unit still technically had years of life left in it and he wanted to try to help him get that time out of it. At the very least his goal was to get the fan blades spinning even enough that the unit would work for a couple more years. Paul was not happy about this at all. He paid the AC service guys so that he wouldn’t end up in a situation like this, and here he was. They had actually made matters worse for him and he was very displeased.
There wasn’t much Paul could do about the situation since the air conditioning service he used was not even a real company. He couldn’t expect them to pay for the repair or even pay for his unit because they were not licensed, insured, or bonded. He did leave a bad review online, but it was just the start of a bad review because he had more problems coming his way.
The second problem was the oil situation. Paul had no idea that the guys had used universal oil to lubricate the components inside of the AC unit and to top off the compressor. Universal oil is the type of lubrication oil that is generally used inside garages on automobiles and is not safe for use in AC systems. Oils are not interchangeable, another fact that Paul was soon to gain an education about.
The purpose of oil in the compressor is to prevent leaks and to reduce friction. The inside of the average AC unit has a lot of moving parts that rub on each other, the oil is designed to help prevent the compressor from heating up due to the friction. Too much heat will eventually cause the compressor to quit working. That is exactly what happened to Paul’s AC about three weeks after the air conditioning service. He had made it through the fan blade fiasco and thought that things were back on track. Then one day he came home from work and discovered that his AC had shut off. He tried to power it back on but it shut off again within a few hours.
Paul was thoroughly disgusted at this point. He didn’t know how, but he knew this had to be related to the group who came to his home for air conditioning service. Clearly, they had caused more damage than he thought they had and now he had another problem to deal with.
He called the HVAC company who helped him with the fan blades and they said that they could come out in the morning to take a second look. He got lucky and it was the same HVAC technician who knew what had happened before, so he paid more attention to the details while examining the system. The tech quickly realized that the air conditioning service must have used universal oils to lubricate the system instead of AC-approved oils. AC units usually are coated with PAG oil. Synthetic oils have a different viscosity and don’t lead to extensive heat. The opposite is true of universal oils. The oils messed up the compressor and caused it to run inefficiently which results in extra heat and excess stress on the system. Eventually, the compressor overheated and shut down.
The only thing they could do to repair the situation is attempt to wipe up as much of the oil as possible and drain what was currently in the AC. This was a lengthy process, and it is not a 100% accurate process. Anyone who has tried to wash something with oil knows that it leaves behind a residue even with the strongest efforts. The HVAC technician worked pretty hard to clean it up though. While he was cleaning he chatted with Paul and told him that this was not the first time that he had seen this happen. There were a few AC service companies around town who advertised their services and made this same mistake. He told Paul that once they got it cleaned up and got the new unit installed that should help solve the problem and the AC should work again.
He did warn him though that there was no way to measure how much damage this had caused to his compressor. It no doubt added some excess wear and tear on it and that would shorten its lifespan, but by how much was anyone’s guess. The HVAC technician warned Paul to keep an eye on the compressor and if he heard any odd noises then he would want to call back to get further help. This was not what Paul wanted to hear. This was now the second problem that he had to deal with simply because the first service could not do their job correctly.
Paul was simply aghast by now. Two mistakes in just a matter of weeks following an air conditioning service that was supposed to help prevent problems. This was turning into the worst mistake he had ever made. He wasn’t going to ever hire anyone from any community mailer again. This was too much to digest. How could something that should have been so easily gone so terribly wrong, and all he ended up saving, in the end, was an extra $100. It was definitely not worth it. At this point, he had long spent that money and spent a lot more than he saved. After all, he already had to pay for two AC repair visits, and for all he knew there was more on the way.
It turned out that Paul was right, he would see the HVAC technician again although it would be a couple of months this time. Everything seemed to hold for a while after the first few repairs, but one day when Paul was cleaning the utility closet near where the AC unit was he thought he heard a hissing noise. He stopped vacuuming and stood there for about five minutes. When the AC kicked up again he was sure that he was hearing a hissing noise. He was pretty concerned that this noise was the sound of his compressor possibly going bad again, so he quickly called up the HVAC repair guy he used and scheduled another appointment.
This time it took a few days for the HVAC company to get out to his house, but Paul kept an eye on the noise. It was constant when the AC system was on, but it didn’t seem to be getting any louder or turning into a sharp whistle which reassured him. Finally, the tech came out, but he found another piece of surprising information. While Paul had reasonably assumed that sound must have been related to his compressor, it was actually related to a separate problem.
The HVAC technician found a small hole in the seam of the ductwork above the AC unit. He also found a flap of duct tape that was covered in cobwebs and clearly had lost its stick. This hole in the seam created the hissing sound that Paul was hearing as air seeped out into the utility closet instead of being dispersed around the house. While this was minor compared to the compressor, it was still an issue that had to be dealt with.
The technician told Paul that likely his AC system was now working twice as hard to push air out throughout the house because the ducts were losing a great deal of air right at the start of the system. He also said that if you took a thermometer and measured the temperature in the utility room it was probably much colder than the rest of the house. Paul had actually noticed this before but not given it much thought, so he knew the tech was probably right. The technician suggested replacing this piece of ductwork and then using the appropriate seam tape so that the installation prevented any future air leaks. Paul went ahead and said to do what needed to be done, but was extremely wary at this point. Who knew what new mistakes were going to pop up now? It seemed every few months he learned about some new mistake the air conditioning service had made.
As a homeowner Paul made mistakes, but this was certainly the worst one that he ever made. From this point forward he would continue to schedule an air conditioning service, but only with the professional company he used before. He would never again invite strangers into his home because this is clearly what happens when you do.
Missed Tasks Lead to High Bills
Lucy, on the other hand, had a different situation. She didn’t choose the wrong company to handle her air conditioning service because she didn’t choose to handle it at all. As a new homeowner, Lucy thought there was a lot of extra stuff that people paid for that probably didn’t need to be done. She was watching her budget and she wanted to spend more time traveling than she did on her home, so she made a list of things that she probably didn’t need to worry about and then she didn’t.
This process was working out well for a while because the people who owned the home before she had kept up with their air conditioning service on a regular basis. Therefore, when she first started skipping service calls, it wasn’t an issue since the appliances were in good condition. However, as the years passed that situation changed. She started to experience problems here and there with her AC unit, but she wrote them off as signs of aging and just dealt with them. She would hear little noises sometimes, but since they seemed to go away or were quiet enough that she could ignore them she didn’t bother paying any attention.
She was not one to overreact to a situation, and she certainly didn’t worry about repair if she could avoid it. She wasn’t at home much because her job let her travel quite frequently, so even if the air conditioning system was running minimally in the background, she wouldn’t have recognized a problem.
Anyone who understands that machines need to be serviced knows that she was headed for a major breakdown. Unfortunately, Lucy didn’t seem to understand this fact. She thought that things were going just great until she came home from a trip and noticed that her AC was not working at all.
The house had a very strong odor to it, since it had been baking for weeks while she was gone, and her plants were all dead. The death of her plants actually surprised her more than the air conditioner breaking down because she thought it was very hard to kill a cactus. However, she had managed to do it. Now that Lucy was supposed to be home for a couple of weeks, she knew she had to take care of the air conditioning system because everything she owned was going to get stinky and potentially moldy.
While there were no leaks in the home, the high amount of humidity in Texas was enough to make things sweat that shouldn’t have been. In fact, she was worried that her first-floor flooring was already starting to buckle a little bit so she called an HVAC company to come take a look at her AC and figure out what was going on.
It only took them about five minutes to figure out what the problem was: a very dirty and grime-filled air conditioner. You see Lucy had not only been skipping her AC service, but she had also never replaced the air conditioning filters. In fact, she didn’t even know that an air conditioning system had filters in it, which meant that her filter was practically black. The simple test of whether a filter is good or not is if you can see through it. You definitely couldn’t see a centimeter past this air filter.
Between the dirt that was sitting in the system, the debris that never got cleaned, and the overwhelmed air filter, it got to the point where air could no longer pass through the system. The compressor was working overtime to try to push past all the dirt, which caused it to overheat and break. The end result was an AC system that was no longer able to function. Unfortunately at this point, the repair was going to be more than just a simple cleaning.
While the air conditioning unit certainly needed to have a full cleaning, the compressor was also going to need to be replaced because it had burnt out. Had she been home, she likely would’ve heard the loud noises of the compressor pushing it so far past its limits it’s also likely that the compressor wasn’t the only item that was getting extra wear and tear. The motor was also probably working harder to attempt to push the air through the clogged filters and passageways. It was going to require a full inspection to see just how bad the system was and whether or not she would need to replace it.
Lucy was pretty stunned. She had no idea that just some dirt and grime would be enough to ruin an entire air conditioning unit. If someone had told her this, she might’ve thought twice about canceling her air conditioning service plan. It’s definitely not something that anybody talked about in her travel groups, and she couldn’t remember whether her parents had booked an air conditioning service or not.
However, one thing was clear, now she had a big problem on her hands and a home that was extremely hot. She told the HVAC team to go ahead and do what they needed to do to figure out what was wrong with her system. They told her the easiest way was to start by replacing the compressor to see whether the motor would work again or not. If it was just the compressor that burnt out the repair would be simple enough, but if she ended up needing to buy a compressor and a motor then it might be in her best interest to think about replacing the entire unit.
Lucy had no idea how she was going to afford an entire unit unless she stayed home for her next couple of trips. She didn’t even know if that would help since her tickets were nonrefundable, but she had to figure out a way to save her home from the hot, humid sun.
Luckily, she had done her research when she hired an HVAC company to come out and help her clean up her mess, and they were willing to work hard to save her as much money as they could on the repair. The first thing they did was clean out the air filter and all of the dirt and debris that was sitting around in her system. Then they lubricated all of the moving parts, including the compressor to see if that was enough to get things moving. The good news was the HVAC system turned back on but the bad news was the compressor was obviously compromised and heating up quickly. This indicated that she would have to replace the compressor but the motor seems to be working just fine.
Lucy decided to go ahead and have the crew replace her compressor which took about a week since the new part had to be ordered. In the meantime, she stayed with a friend because her home was too hot to live in comfortably, and she couldn’t take the risk of burning something else out in her HVAC system by running it with the worn-out compressor still in it.
The HVAC company returned about a week later with the new compressor and installed it. They also took a second look throughout the system and made sure that all of the debris was removed so that she was starting with a clean slate. While they didn’t have to, they also took a second to show her how to change an air filter so that she could handle this very important task on her own in the future. All of this work would be for nothing if she did not keep up with her air filters and let the machine get as dirty as it was before.
Lucy was extremely pleased with the response and told them many times that she appreciated how much they were to help her get out of the mess that she had made. The very first thing she did before they left for the last time was schedule an air conditioning service with them for six months. They recommended that she have her air conditioning unit serviced every six months so that she could stay on top of any future problems and not end up in the situation again. She happily agreed.
In the time since the AC breakdown had first happened, Lucy had spent a lot of time online, reading about air conditioners, service, and what could happen if you didn’t keep up with it. She had read a lot of horror stories and knew that she was very lucky that she didn’t have to replace her entire unit. She also knew that it could’ve potentially burned down her house if the problem had spread to her electrical wires. Since she wasn’t home she would’ve never had any indication that something was going on with her AC system. Therefore, a proper air conditioning service inspection at least every six months made the most sense to protect her home and the AC unit.
She wasn’t quite sure how long the new repairs would last, but she hoped that she could at least get two or three more years out of her AC unit before she would have to think about replacing it. If she could get a few more years out of her AC unit, that would help you budget for the replacement so that it would not drain her savings. The AC company had actually told her that this is one of the perks of regular air conditioning service, it gives you a peek into the condition of your AC system so you could properly prepare for charges that are coming at you down the road.
Both Lucy and Paul learned some important lessons from their experiences with air conditioning service. Paul learned that you can’t just trust anyone to work on your unit. He learned the importance of choosing an HVAC company that was trained to work with units so that no further damage occurred. He spent every day hoping that a new problem wouldn’t pop up and couldn’t relax until the year ended without any further issues. At that point, he had an AC service performed by his new HVAC company, and his unit passed with golden colors. Finally, he was back on track even though the lifespan of his unit might have been shortened a bit due to all the problems.
Lucy on the other hand learned the importance of an air conditioning service period. She had discounted the benefits of a service and skipped it because it didn’t seem to work with her schedule. Now she knew that sometimes you had to work your schedule around your household tasks. Ignoring them had not left her in a great situation at all, and she was determined never to end up in this same type of situation again. It was much better to have a working AC unit than to have an extra $100 in the budget at the end of the month.
Of course, she had lost a bit in the process as well. Just like Paul, there was a good chance that she shortened the lifespan of her AC unit but she wouldn’t know by how much until something else went wrong. She was hoping that keeping up with her air conditioning service would help her deal with that as it happened. It certainly wouldn’t hurt anything.
The big takeaway from both of these stories is that you shouldn’t take your annual AC maintenance for granted. It needs to be done on a yearly basis, and it needs to be done by a qualified HVAC professional. If you are worried about it at all, then head online to read the credentials of the company that you use to make sure they match your expectations.
If you are due for an AC maintenance visit and want the help of a professional HVAC team, contact One Hour Air Conditioning & Heating of Dallas today to schedule your service.
See our previous blog on this topic here.
Find out our service area here.
Photo By Christian Delbert at Shutterstock
Check out this tip!