Air conditioning maintenance: how do I go about it?

Air conditioning is one of the best solutions for cooling your home in summer but you need to ensure your system is properly maintained after installation. Whether they're mono-split, multi-split or reverse cycle, air conditioning units need regular cleaning to keep on performing well. Read on to discover some useful tips and learn all there is to know about air conditioning maintenance.

Why do air conditioners need servicing?  

No matter what type of air conditioner you have for cooling your home, frequent maintenance is essential.  

  • Performance: Air conditioners contain a filter which, together with the air suction mechanism, captures the dust and micro-particles in the air of a room. It can get clogged as time goes by, and in this case, your unit may perform less well. So, after installation, you should unclog the filter regularly to keep your unit in good working order. 
  • Overconsumption: as we explained above, a clogged filter can reduce the efficiency of your cooling system. This can have a direct consequence on your energy bill because it means your equipment will consume more energy to cool or heat the room(s) where it’s located. 
  • Air quality: here again, a clogged filter can cause you problems... to do with health in this case. Indeed, a dirty filter can encourage the growth of mould and bacteria, which studies have shown to be bad for your health. What’s more, your unit will release dusty air, negatively affecting air quality in your house. So keeping your filter dust-free can help to create a healthier environment, as well as improving the efficiency of your equipment. 
  • Life span: if you want to extend the lifespan of the various parts in your air conditioning system (compressor, evaporator coil...), it’s crucial to schedule regular services. Like any item of equipment, the better you take care of your units, the longer they will last. Ongoing support by a team of professional engineers will prolong the life of your equipment. 

The answer is yes and no: it all depends on whether the air conditioning system is installed in a private home or on business premises. In the UK, there are no official Building Regulations in place for domestic air conditioning systems. So, there is no legal requirement for householders to have their air conditioning serviced. In the case of commercial buildings, however, inspections are mandatory to ensure the health and safety of their occupants. According to the Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations, air conditioning systems in commercial buildings with an effective rated output over 12kW must be inspected at least once every five years. A certified energy assessor must carry out these checks. Aside from routine maintenance inspections, building managers are responsible for F-gas (fluorinated greenhouse gas) inspections. This ensures that any refrigerant gas leaks are repaired as soon as they’re found. After carrying out these checks, the energy assessor will provide an inspection report for the building manager to read, including an efficiency rating. 

Although these inspections are not required for domestic systems, you should still make sure any air conditioning products in your home are serviced regularly. 

We always recommend that you contact a qualified HVAC specialist to provide these services. 

Generally speaking, a professional will check various points during their visit: 

  • The condition of the refrigerant circuit. If a leak is detected, the engineer can refill the refrigerant gas. 
  • The optimal functioning of the various components in the air conditioning system. These are the compressor and condenser for the outdoor unit and the evaporator coil for the indoor unit, which will be replaced if there’s a malfunction. 
  • Cleaning of the air conditioner. To do this, the HVAC professional uses a specific product that prevents bacterial growth. They spray it into the condensate drain pan and onto the inner and outer evaporator. They also unclog the filters in the indoor unit of the air conditioner.

Service contract: do you have to sign one?  

A service contract (also known as a maintenance contract) is not mandatory but we strongly recommend signing one. Knowing you can always contact a professional for support will give you peace of mind. In addition to the checks described above, the service contract includes breakdown cover for your air conditioner all year round. The contract is meant to cover the cost of labour, spare parts, travel expenses... 

How much does an air conditioning service contract cost? 

The price of a service contract is generally lower than the cost of using a repair company on an ad hoc basis. A service contract usually costs between £80 and £180. As we’ve seen above, the price of the service contract includes all the repair work. As well as keeping costs down, this will help you save time: you won't have to compare quotes from different companies before choosing one, as the contract will tell you which team of engineers to contact in the event of a breakdown! 

How often should air conditioning be serviced? 

In addition to regular services by an HVAC engineer, you can also clean your air conditioner yourself. We recommend doing this annually at least. 

How do you clean your own air conditioner filter? 

  • Activated carbon filter: This filter helps to remove bad smells. Ideally, it should be dusted about every two weeks. 
  • Mechanical filter screen: This is the filter most people are aware of since it’s the one that traps large particles, dust, etc. It should be vacuumed for effective cleaning. 
  • Electrostatic filter: The electrostatic filter acts as a second "protective barrier" that complements the mechanical filter screen. This is the filter that catches micro-particles and all the elements in suspension that can cause allergies. The electrostatic filter can be replaced approximately once every 3 months or at least 3 times a year. 

Air conditioner servicing is not to be taken lightly. Well-maintained units guarantee better performance, lower energy bills and improved air quality, which will have a direct beneficial effect on your health. Also remember to change or clean your air conditioner's filters in addition to regular check-ups by professional engineers.