How does a Fox Family HVAC tune-up compare?

Do I really need an air conditioner tune-up and what do I get for my money?

Even though it has been pretty mild and even rainy these last few days, I can’t help but think about all of my future customers who will be calling me frantically asking how soon we can get out to their house to fix their AC system. 

Our customers in Rancho Cordova and the surrounding Sacramento area who have already had their AC maintenance from Fox Family Heating, Air Conditioning and Solar have peace of mind going into the Summer months.  AC maintenance customers receive an incredible 60 point AC tune up every Spring on their system.  That means we check and clean a lot more parts than the other companies.  I have heard of 12 point inspections, 20 point inspections, and even 30 point inspections.  I have never heard of a company that does a 60 point tune-up on your system.  What’s better, our company can show what it was we checked.  Sometimes companies say they are checking this and cleaning that, but leave you thinking, “What did they DO?”  To the left is a picture of our AC Maintenance form we use in every home.  It’s probably a little small to read, but you can see how many items we are checking on the visit.

We also rate your components on a Good, Medium, Bad or Green, Yellow, Red system.  If the items on your form are red or yellow, we’d like to talk to you about how we can make your system perform better for you and your family. Another great thing about our AC maintenance is no matter which Fox Family technician performs the tune-up for your system, everything gets checked in the same order.  At some other companies, there is not a structured way of doing the tune-up.  The boss just says, “go out and make sure it’s up and running.”  This is why $39 AC Tune-ups are not a good value for you.  The technician performing that tune-up is going to move quickly through your system to get to the next job.  Don’t you want someone to take their time on your home AC system and deliberately check each and every component, so you’ll know exactly what is and what is not working well on your AC system?   Every AC maintenance should take about 45 minutes to an hour and a half.  You’ll know we have a structured way of going through your system to make sure it ready for the upcoming summer months! 

We start off at your thermostat, checking to make sure they are mounted securely to the wall and that your batteries are in good condition.  We also want to make sure you are comfortable with how to use the thermostat.  Is it programmed to your specific needs?  Next, we check the air filters for size, fit and cleanliness.  As we move on through your AC maintenance, we are checking for items regarding your home comfort level, such as your insulation levels in the attic.  The current standard for insulation in California is R-38.  Most older homes we go into have less than half of that.  This may be one reason why your utility bills are too high in the summer and winter months.  If you could build a bigger barrier between your hot attic in the summertime and your nice cool living room down below, your energy bill would plummet.  Some people tell me they cannot get the house to go down below 80 degrees in the summertime.  Then I look up in their attic and see an insulation value equal to pretty much zero!  No wonder your bills are high and the AC still won’t cool you down.  Radiant heat is bullying its way into your house without your permission.  Put a stop to it!  Let Fox Family Heating and Air blow an adequate level of insulation into your attic and put some money back into your pocket. 

After checking your ductwork and insulation levels, we move on to the air handler and evaporator portion which pushes the air through your duct system and cools the air at the same time.  You may already know that your AC system has an outdoor unit because you hear it cranking up a few thousand times every summer.  But did you know the other half of your AC system is at the air handler?  You see, you have a hot coil on the outside, getting rid of the heat in your home, and a cold coil in the attic or garage, wherever your particular air handler happens to be.  The air handler has a blower wheel and a motor to push the room temperature air across the cold coils to give you air conditioning in your home! 

We assess and evaluate the following at the air conditioner:

  • Manufacture date
  • Door safety switch
  • Temperature difference of the air coming in and going out of your system
  • Blower capacitor rating and actual value
  • Balanced blower wheel for efficiency
  • Blower assembly cleanliness for longevity of life and efficiency
  • Primary drain lines get purged with nitrogen for proper operation
  • Condensate safety switch to ensure that your sheetrock below the AC in the attic never becomes damaged in the case of a leaking evaporator coil.
  • Condensate lines to make sure they are properly sloped and drain to the outside with only the help of gravity
  • Condensate lines to make sure there are no leaking joints or connections
  • The condition of your necessary secondary drain pan.  Some homes don’t even have one of these.  I feel bad for them if the primary pan ever failed.  Water, water and more water on their nice sheet rock in the living room, nooooo!
  • The condition of your evaporator coil to make sure it is converting your air to be as cool as possible by the time it reaches your room
  • Refrigerant leaks around all the joints around the system
  • The expansion valve sensing bulb for proper mounting per manufacturer specified installation practices.  This will improve the efficiency of your system once mounted properly.
  • We determine if there is already a UV air purification system in your duct system already.  If not, we will always recommend that to you, because we know everyone will breathe easier in the home with a working UV air purification system.

Once we are through checking the air handler and all of its’ parts, we go to the air conditioner outside.  We determine the condition of every item on that unit, so you’ll know what kind of shape it is in.  We assess and evaluate the following at your Air Conditioner:

  • Manufacture date
  • The current outdoor temperature
  • The type of refrigerant is used in your system.
  • Type of wiring used to supply the high voltage to your system.
  • The service disconnect to make sure it is safe and meets city code specifications
  • We tighten the lugs on the high voltage terminals at the disconnect and contactor within the AC unit.
  • We check the maximum fuse rated for your specific unit and determine whether the right fuses are still in the service disconnect from when it was installed, or has someone put different ones in there.
  • Inspect for signs of leaking refrigerant around the AC
  • Ensure the copper suction line going into the outdoor AC unit has sufficient insulation on it to keep in line with specified rules from the city code inspector.  This affects the efficiency of the system if not properly insulated.
  • Measure the amps draws on your condenser fan motor while it’s running to determine if it’s running okay, or do we see this motor going out soon. 
  • Measure the voltages coming into the contactor as well as going out.
  • Record the amp draws of the compressor to determine if it’s running okay.
  • Measure the microfarad levels of the compressor capacitor and the condenser fan capacitor.
  • Check for the presence of a 5-2-1 compressor start assist on the AC unit.  If not present, we’ll suggest one to you because we know that it will likely extend the life of your compressor.  The manufacturers don’t usually put one on the system because it is a conflict of interest for them.  They know that your system will last longer with one on your system.  That’s why they don’t add one in the first place.
  • Tighten all electrical connections within the AC unit to prevent any high voltage arcing from terminal to terminal. 
  • Lubricate all moving parts that aren’t sealed for longer life.
  • Wash and wipe down your unit to make sure it is clean and serviceable.  There’s nothing like an AC that you rub up against and then get dirty from all the oxidation rubs off on you.
  • If you have an excessive build-up of leaves and stick in the bottom of your unit, we’ll get those out as well for you.
  • We also verify that the unit can breathe properly by making sure the bushes and shrubs are cut back from the unit at least one foot.

It takes a lot of discipline to perform these AC maintenance procedures so precisely on hundreds of units every Spring in the Rancho Cordova and Sacramento area.  At Fox Family Heating and Air Conditioning, we feel we are bringing you a great value for your money.  We perform a 60 point tune-up on your system.  This will help you feel more comfortable going into the summer months knowing we have thoroughly gone through your system from head to toe measuring, identifying, determining, and calculating your AC system’s performance. 

We know it’s a lot of information!  But a 30 point inspection for the same price just isn’t going to identify the real details of your system. 

Let us tell you what is going on with your system.  Good and bad!  If we suggest a part to you and you feel like this is not the right time for you and your family, no problem!  We would never want to make you feel uncomfortable.  As long as you are informed, we feel like we’ve done our job.  If you decide to move forward with any suggested repairs, we have the necessary parts on our trucks and can get you up and running to your manufacturer’s specs in a jiffy.  The AC maintenance is critical to the longevity of our system.  We hope you aren’t a victim of an inconvenient breakdown this summer.  Give us a call, and let us come out to show you in person what a real AC maintenance is supposed to look like.

Greg Fox is the owner of Fox Family Heating, Air Conditioning and Solar, Inc.  He has been in the HVAC industry since 2010, and the customer service industry for over twenty years.

Expect Great Things at Your Fox Family Air Conditioning Tune-Up

Expect Great Things at Your Fox Family Air Conditioning Tune-Up

What Is an Air Conditioner Tune-Up, Anyway?

An air conditioning tune-up is what responsible homeowners do to maintain their home’s HVAC system.   It’s a thorough cleaning and testing of the air conditioning system, to ensure that it’ll work when you need it this summer.  We operate with the understanding that a clean system will run longer than a dirty system.  To read more about keeping your system running during the summer, check out our blog post on this topic.

Not every HVAC company in town will perform an Air conditioning tune-up.  I would say it’s because they feel they’re not very good money generators for them.  I get it, wiping down air conditioners and testing parts aren’t very exciting for some.  But I don’t think they understand the opportunity they have to create a relationship with someone and their HVAC system.

I like to develop relationships with my customers by taking care of their AC system every spring.  If we can perform an air conditioning tune-up every spring, for years and years, I know my customers will, at the very least, allow us to provide a quote for a new system when the time comes.  At the same time, our customers get to work with Sacramento’s most honest air conditioning company.  Our technicians will only bring up parts or repairs that will make the system return to factory standards, help it last longer, and make it safer for their families.

What Happens at My Air Conditoning Tune-Up?

When we are on the way, our technician will call you and let you know.  We are proud to park on the street in our bright white vans with the Fox Family logo on them.  After you open the door and allow us to come in, we usually start at the air filter and thermostat.

I like to ask if there are any areas of the house that need any attention.  Do any rooms not get the right amount of air?  Does it cool the house down to your satisfaction in the middle of summer?  Questions like this can establish how you like your system to run.  Because not every homeowner is the same, right?

Once I know what’s going on in your mind as a homeowner, we will turn on the AC system, together, at the thermostat, listen for the air to come on, and walk outside to make sure everything out there is at least running.  Now we all know the system was running when we arrived!

From here, you’ll be able to sit back and do whatever you need to do while the tech goes out and runs through a list specifically designed for your type of air conditioning system.

Step One of Your Air Conditioning Tune-Up

We usually start out at the air handler in the attic or closet.  As a responsible business owner, if the furnace is in the attic, I need my techs to get in and out quickly.  It’s hard to ask a tech to spend time cleaning a furnace in a hot attic.  The furnace gets physically cleaned during the furnace tune-up, rather than during an AC tune-up, but there are some really important things to check here, so we try to get in and get out effectively and safely.

The most important thing we’re testing is the temperature difference between your supply and return air ducts.  If it’s not where it needs to be, we have a series of checks we will do to get it right.  A quick look at the evaporator coil can make a huge difference in the comfort of your home this summer.  If it’s dirty or clogged it will make your system underperform.

As part of the AC tune-up, we also need to make sure your blower and the flywheel is clean and ready to run a lot in the coming summer months.  The tech will pour water down the drain lines to make sure the condensate drains properly.

We always offer the option of a condensate safety switch to protect your home from potential damage.  The secondary drain pan under the evaporator coil in the attic is a potential source of problems as well, so we make sure it’s ready for any emergencies.

Additionally, we’ll make sure the metering device for your refrigeration system is mounted properly while checking for any obvious refrigerant leaks in the copper tubing.  We’ll also check for proper insulation levels in your attic because it creates such an effective barrier between the hot air in the attic and the cool air you’re trying to keep in your house.  It pays to have a thick layer of insulation up there!

Step Two of the Air Conditioning Tune-Up

Once we’re done in the attic — and I really only want my techs up there maybe fifteen minutes on warmer days — we’ll head to the outdoor unit where the majority of the AC tune-up is done.  Here, we test the components inside the panel, focusing on things like your refrigerant levels to ensure your system isn’t running too long, unnecessarily.  The high and low voltage electrical running the AC needs to maintain a certain sizing, workmanship, and integrity.

Checking Items During Your AC Tune-Up

All in all, we check about 35 items on the outdoor unit and 20 items on the indoor unit.  If you happen to have a packaged unit that sits on the side of the house or even on the rooftop, we still check all 55 items.

After we check the entire AC system, we’ll let you know if there are any parts that need to be replaced.  Our trucks are stocked with almost every part you need for your AC to get back up and running properly the same day.

If your system is running well, we get right to work washing your AC.  Many air conditioning manufacturers are switching to materials like micro-channel which can’t be washed with soapy or chemical solutions, and we pay attention to things like that.  If you have a dog that runs around in your back yard, we try not to use soapy solutions that drain into the area around the AC, so your best friend doesn’t get sick.

We are so thorough cleaning the AC, it’s not uncommon to see a tech vacuuming out your AC to get rid of the sticks and other debris that can be a nuisance to a healthy air conditioner.

What’s the Benefit of an AC Tune-Up?

When the air conditioning tune-up is complete, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your system is in tip-top shape.  Making sure a professional completes these steps every year will really pay off in the later years of your HVAC system’s life.  As a technician, my 20-year-old system is so clean, it runs like a champ.  It’s old and loud, but it keeps my house cool just fine!  Even on 105-degree days.  Why?  Because I take care of it.

If you’re curious and would like to learn more about how your air conditioner works, check out my blog post on this topic.

So, give Fox Family a call here in the greater Sacramento Valley area.  We would be honored to service your HVAC system in the year ahead!

Thanks for checking in on our blog.  See you next week!


Don’t miss our video on this topic:

Top 5 Things You Can Do to Keep Your AC Running the Rest of the Summer

Keep Your AC Running the Rest of the Summer

Keep your AC in Good Shape for our “Second Summer” in Sacramento

Can you believe it still gets up to 100 degrees around Labor Day?  I guess we could say we typically have a bit of a “second summer.”  I think it safe to point out we will typically still be using our air conditioners for at least another month.  As we head into September, I’d like to point out a few things you can do to make sure your AC system keeps running the rest of the summer and through the end of another year.

  1. Get Any Remaining Repairs Done

If you had us out this year to diagnose a problem or got an AC tune-up, we may have repaired the immediate cause of the failure.  I’m sure we made some other recommendations for your system that will not only make your system last longer but make things more secure for your home.  These add-ons, like a condensate safety switch or a compressor start assist kit can really help out your AC and keep it running the rest of the summer.  Also, if there were any items that were running low, maybe now is a good time to get that fixed.  You really want a well-performing system heading into next summer.

  1. Don’t Cover the AC Too Soon

Some of our customers like to cover their AC for the fall and winter so no debris falls into the bottom or snags on the fan blade.  This is a great idea, but just make sure you’re not going to use your AC anymore this year before doing so.  You can cause an overheating compressor, which is the most expensive thing to replace on your system.

  1. Change Your Filter One More Time

I know I say this a lot, but changing your filter is the single most important thing you can do as a homeowner to protect your system and extend the life of it.  I always recommend buying the cheapest filters, so you are more inclined to change them out more often.  Remember, if your filter is not perfectly white anymore, it’s time to change your filter.  That’s the air you’re breathing, and I know you wouldn’t purposely hold a dirty air mask to your face and breathe through it.  So, change those filters!

  1. To Keep Your AC Running, Keep the Coils Clean on the Outdoor Unit

Washing the coils on the outside unit is relatively straightforward, assuming the fins on the outdoor coils aren’t completely impacted or overgrown with pollen and dirt.  You should be able to simply use your garden hose to spray downward from the top of the fins towards the ground.  This rinses you fins off so they have more surface area to transfer heat.  You really just don’t want to use something like a power washer.  A little pressure is fine but if you start bending the fins, you’re going about it with a little too much strength.  Watch my video about “What happens on an AC Tune-up” to see me clean my old AC’s condenser coils.

  1. Make Sure Condensation is Dripping on the Side of the House

Last but not least, there is a 3/4 inch drain probably on the side of your house that drips water from it every summer when your AC is running.  This is a good thing, and even this late in the year you want to make sure it’s still draining properly.  If not, there might be a clog within the AC drainage system that needs to be taken care of.  High-pressure air or a vacuum cleaner on the pipe can free up the clog.  Whether you take care of it or you let Fox Family come out and take care of it, this is one thing you don’t want to neglect.  Water damage is no fun!

Take this advice as we deal with this late summer heat.  I’m sure you’re going to be using your AC a little more this year.  Its really important to take care of your AC, so it will take care of you when you need it.

If you haven’t already had your AC tune-up this year from Fox Family, let us come out and do a thorough check of your AC system and get it cleaned up so next year you don’t have any surprises sneak up on you.

Thanks so much for stopping by and we’ll see you at the next blog post.

Don’t Miss Our Video on a Related Topic:

What Happens on a Fox AC Tune-Up?