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A/C Check Up

Beware the Popular Bait-and-Switch A/C Tune Up Scam

Many HVAC service companies offer a "tune up" special. They display a checklist of 15 or 20 things they supposedly tune, check and adjust in their advertisement. Oftentimes these "tune up specials" are offered for a substantially discounted price, sometimes as little as $19.95. Does anyone actually think they will get something of honest value for 20 bucks today? Consider this, a technician will have to drive out to their home or business, and then once they arrive they are going to do a job that normally takes 1 hour to do properly, and after all that they will happily collect a mere $19.95 and be on their way. That 20 dollars doesn't come even close to paying for the costs incurred by that company! It probably doesn't even pay for the advertising cost that it took to get the new customer. The company would lose money obviously if they actually did work for only $19.95. Even if they paid their employees less than minimum wage and the truck fairy gave them their vehicles and gasoline for free, they would still lose money!

a/c tune up scam

Of course there is no truck fairy, and HVAC technicians are skilled tradesmen with an average income many times greater than minimum wage. On top of that, advertising costs are higher today than they have ever been in history, and it's not uncommon for companies that buy advertisements on search engines to spend $25, $50 or even $75 to obtain a new client! So, how the scam usually works in order for it to be profitable, is basically it's a variation of the infamous bait-and-switch. In a bait-and-switch campaign the company advertises a very low price and then after the customer is hooked by the bait, they steer them towards other high priced products and services. So when the technician comes in to talk to you about your "tune up" after he pretended to work on your air conditioner for about 15 minutes (to make it look like he did something), he is going to bring brochures and pamphlets and lots of scripted and rehearsed smooth talking to try to sell you all kinds of unnecessary expensive stuff. How about a fancy new thermostat? Duct cleaning? Duct sealing? High performance air filter? A power surge protector? Some special hi-tech magic oil for your compressor? A maintenance contract? Perhaps a whole new unit?? Who knows, you would have to call them for yourself and see the dog-and-pony-show performance they make to try to sell you stuff, but whatever it is, it will be a lot more than $19.95 and it will likely have nothing whatsoever to do with your actual tune up and it will all be stuff you definitely don't need. What a gimmick and what an insult to intelligent people. That, in our opinion is a terrible way to do business.

We Don't Do Tune Ups. We Do Check Ups

The way we do service is quite different. First off let's set the record straight, there is no such thing as a tune up on an A/C system or a heat pump. HVAC systems are not like cars. There are no hoses to change and no fluids to regularly refill. There is no oil to drain out and refill. There are no spark plugs or wires to replace. There is no maintenance schedule. Air conditioners don't need freon added to them during each service (if a system requires more refrigerant it is because there is a leak, and it should be investigated, located and repaired if possible and practical). There is certainly nothing to tune up. That is why we do not offer a “tune up” service. We offer a Check Up. To call a Check Up a "tune up" implies that some preventive or corrective action or procedure must be performed. A/C systems need a Check Up to test and observe their present condition, and if nothing is wrong with it then nothing should be done to it. Sometimes though, during a Check Up we find issues that can be corrected before they cause a failure or a problem. In a Check Up, a thorough evaluation is made by inspecting and testing the system. The critical parts of the system are carefully looked at. We do not have a 15 point list of the things we do, as though we are just trying to complete a checklist of meaningless items to call the job done (almost all companies would say they check the freon, check the amperage of the electrical components, check the capacitors, check the temperatures, blah blah blah). We have an exclusive proprietary servicing protocol that was created by a HVAC technician who has over 30 years of experience working on air conditioners in Arizona. We do not publish this information, but suffice it to say it includes far more than 15 things. It is servicing with a purpose. Most “tune ups” are done blindly with no predetermined goals or objectives in mind (other than upselling unrelated and unnecessary things during the service visit to make $$), merely focusing on a few essential technical details from a sorry excuse of a list they probably copied off the internet or the electric company website, while dismissing the big picture entirely. We have a big picture objective in mind, a holistic approach basically, when we service A/C systems. We actually look at the systems we service. We have a mission to accomplish, a goal. Well actually, we have 5 goals.

5 Star Comprehensive HVAC servicing logo

Our A/C servicing objectives include safety, lonvenity, capacity, dependability and efficiency

Each of the 5 stars represents one of the primary servicing objectives we have. Each objective is a goal that we strive to accomplish when we perform a Check Up or a service on a heat pump or A/C system.

Servicing Goal #1 The first and foremost concern is safety. Nothing else is more important than making sure your system is safe for you and your family. Unsafe systems can kill people and burn buildings down!
Servicing Goal #2 The second is longevity. Good servicing can make a system last much longer before it has to be replaced. Replacing a heat pump or air conditioner is a major expense and proper service can oftentimes defer that cost for many years.
Servicing Goal #3 The third objective is capacity. A poorly installed and improperly maintained system can greatly reduce the amount of cooling and heating you get from your unit. You could have a 5 ton air conditioner for example, that only delivers 3 tons of air conditioning into your house!
Servicing Goal #4 The forth is efficiency. With electric costs rising very rapidly, it doesn't make sense to give the utility company more money than you absolutely need to. As much as half or more of your electric bill is from cooling and heating system usage, so it literally pays you to make maximum efficiency a goal to accomplish.
Servicing Goal #5 The final goal is dependability. With the hot Arizona summers here, and with climate change causing records temperatures almost every year now, a reliable air conditioner is essential. While all the servicing in the world can't guarantee you'll never have a breakdown, your chances go way up that you will have one without proper comprehensive maintenance.

With these 5 goals we look at practically everything. We don’t just look at a mere 15 things, in totality including all brief visual checks, we can review well over 100 things on a Check Up. When we check a system we don’t leave behind or miss many of typical things other companies do. While other companies with their 15 point “tune up” list check only the technical parameters of the system, we do that too of course but then we also look at less technical practical things that cause problems as well. We look for broken condensate drains, cracked flexible electrical conduits with exposed wiring, dangerous unsecured wires sticking out through the top of the condenser fan, sun rotted thermostat cables with bare conductors, ducts with floppy loose insulation inside, parts inside the A/C not properly bolted down, missing / loose / stripped out screws, missing or leaking schrader caps, unsealed pipes going through the roof, improperly sized fuses and circuit breakers, and so on. Many of the things we find are dangerous and inefficient, and while other companies ignore them we feel we would be doing our customers an incredible disservice if we ignored them too. We care about air conditioners and we care about our customers!

Take a look at some of the typical stuff we find on our A/C Check Ups that other companies often ignore or neglect:

10 year old air filter inside a/c unit
burned compressor wire terminal
Look at this air filter we found inside of a 10 year old commercial A/C unit. The owner had no idea it was there. There was a separate filer inside the building and nobody ever dismantled the unit far enough in previous service trips to find this.
Burned wire connections do not pass current through them very well, just like a bad terminal on a car battery. You have to open the compressor terminal box to find this though, which most technicians don't do.

The prongs on this fuse pull out are burned on the right front side. Look at the discoloration, clearly telling us this is a bad connection and has overheated many times as a result. How many fuses did they replace before we worked on this unit?
The wiring in this disconnect is charred and burnt on one side. This disconnect is ruined and needs to be replaced. The wiring must be repaired too. This was a long term issue that occurred over a period of several years probably but nobody ever removed the cover on any previous "tune up" to check it.

bypassed refrigerant high pressure safety switch
condenser fan motor run capacitor stuffed inside of a box
Air conditioners have safety controls for a reason. Sometimes when there is an unknown problem the technician will disconnect them and just leave it that way so the customer will quit calling. Very unsafe! We don't disconnect safety controls, we reconnect them and then figure out what the real problem is.
You've heard of a jack-in-the-box. Well this is a capacitor in the box! For some reason many technicians like to stuff replacement capacitors inside the box they came in and cram them inside the electrical panel instead of securing them with a metal bracket like they're supposed to be. In this case the capacitor was an add-on because they replaced the condenser fan motor with a new 4 wire motor and did not know how to wire it back into the existing dual capacitor circuit. We usually wire replacement 4 wire motors using only 3 wires so they can be connected into the original circuitry (yes, this can be done and any true professional technician will know to do it).

The condensate water from this drain pipe is leaking out massive amounts of water and slowly ruining this roof. It is unacceptable to leave it like this. Water also attracts birds and insects.
The flexible conduit is cracked and the wire inside is now exposed to sunlight and is slowly degrading the insulation around it. Also rain water can enter. Eventually the conduit may collapse over and the wire inside may chafe on the raw edge when the A/C runs and produces vibration.

The wires protruding out of the top of this 220 Volt air conditioner are live, even when the A/C is not running. A child or a pet could pull on these wires and get shocked! This is unacceptable, yet most technicians install motors like this and leave the dangerous high voltage wires sticking out. This must be fixed!
The insulation on this service panel has dislodged itself and is flopping around inside the air conditioner. It is also obstructing the air flow. Fiberglass insulation panels in the A/C unit and in the ducting system come loose very frequently but are often ignored.

This motor is so dirty it is a fire hazard. Believe it or not, this can actually be cleaned. This didn't get dirty in 1 year or probably even in 5 years. This level of debris is an accumulation that likely occured over a decade or longer. What did all the other technicians do when they serviced this unit before us??
The condensation drain pipe on this air conditioner is broken. It cannot be left like this. We can fix it! Even if the pipe is broken off inside the unit we can extract the remains and clear the threads to install a new connector.

The blower wheel has curved vanes that capture the air and displace it to through the blower housing into the duct. When the curved vanes become filled with dirt and debris they can no longer efficiently move the air. They must be cleaned to restore them to proper capacity. The air will blow out much harder after they are cleaned. This blower wheel is so dirty it probably only moves 50-60% of the air it was designed to.
The gas line was installed incorrectly on this unit. It is a code violation to run the gas flex connector line directly through the unit cabinet. The vibration of the A/C unit could rub a hole in the line and cause a gas leak. Not safe!

We oftentimes use an inspection camera to look inside ducts. You can see interesting things like this from inside. This is a very big leak!
So many A/C units have dirty coils. This is one of the most significant improvements that can be made. Clean that coil.

The technician who installed this capacitor thought it would be a good idea to hang it with a plastic strap. Turns out this is a bad idea and definitely not the right way to do it. Metal brackets are required. Hey, at least the guy probably saved himself 5 minutes on the job, even though he surely billed the customer full rate for the work.
The fuse probably kept blowing on this unit so the technician thought it would solve his problem if he just "bypassed the disconnect" by just splicing the wires together with wire nuts. This is illegal and very unsafe.

PVC parts are relatively inexpensive and any professional technician should have a stock of them on their truck. Here the repair was made with tape. It probably saved $5 in parts but they likey charged full price to this customer!
When this condensing unit was connected, there was no insulation on the pipe and a void that was not sealed on the pipe flashing. Rain and condensation water will enter the attic from this void.

Here is an example of a typical stripped out screw (top left). Most technicians today use a high speed / high torque battery drill to take the screws out and put them back in when performing a service, and over a period of time this often enlarges the hole in the metal to the extent that the factory screws no longer fasten properly, in some cases the screws are even left just hanging there loose. Most original factory screws are #8 and we carry an assortment of #10 and even #12 screws of varying lengths to put the unit back together properly.
It is not uncommon to discover a broken or split duct when servicing a unit. We know what to look for and when we find this kind of thing we fix it! Broken ducts cost a lot of money in wasted electricty, they can make the air inside your home dirtier, and can even make the system incapable of cooling properly if the split is large enough.

There were at least 6 screws missing from the top panel of this unit. The panel was almost ready to fall off! We always put all the screws back. If the screws are missing we carry new ones with us. If the screws are stripped out, we carry oversized screws so the panels can all be secured tight. If the screws are loose the unit can rattle and fall apart!
The line was clear, yet the condensate pan inside the A/C unit was all plugged up. These must always be checked. If they are full of debris they must be vacuumed out and flushed clean. All kinds of dangerous unhealthy biological matter can grow inside the drain pan.

These control wires have been in the sun for many years and the exterior sheathing is gone! Sometimes they are eroded so badly that the copper conductors are exposed.
This flexible conduit is called "sealtite" because it is a metal tube with a sealed exterior coating. Over the years the sheathing that coated the exterior of the conduit eroded away in the sun and now it no longer is sealed. When it rains the water enters the conduit and gets the wires wet.

The pictures above are just a small sample of the thousands of irregular, incorrect, unsafe, illegal and inefficient things we regularly find on our Check Ups and service visits. Many of the important things we find and correct are ignored by other companies. They are NOT ignored by us! Our mission is safety, longevity, capacity, efficiency and dependability. We take this mission seriously.

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