Save time and money by checking furnace and air conditioner now

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Here’s an important reminder for homeowners who have air conditioning and furnaces: if you wait until it's blazing hot outside, getting a technician to service your AC could take a while.

Experts say now is the time for preventative maintenance on your AC, and maybe your furnace. The first tip is to find a reputable company--either one that comes via recommendation or one that you're comfortable with.

“We've been with Larry Howald for 20 years and we've been on their maintenance program every year and we still have our original furnace so I think it's worked out really well,” said homeowner Dennis Koester.

The regular service has saved him a lot of money and headaches, too. To save even more money, people can do some of the basic maintenance themselves. That maintenance starts with your outside AC unit.

“Make sure your filters are always clean. That's always a big piece of advice. Make sure your outdoor coil is clean. That helps the unit operate more efficiently,” said Ed Kittle, operations manager at Howald Heating & Air.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to clean the outside of an air conditioning unit. You can actually cause problems if you do it incorrectly.

“You just take a water hose and spray straight down the side of the coil and that will actually clean the debris right off. But if you spray straight at it, right at the coil, it is extremely hard to get the debris out after you do that,” said Brad Sturgeon, a service technician at Howald.

Cleaning the outside of your AC unit makes it work far better, and will lower your bills as a result.

The other major part of your HVAC system is the furnace. Homeowners should change the filters per the manufacturer’s timeline. You generally change filters every few months, not once a year.

“When you restrict airflow, it puts a lot of restriction on the blower motor, which can then make the motor fail prematurely. That can be expensive to fix. A blower motor replacement can be anywhere from $400 to $600,” said Kittle.

So, how much does a service call cost? It depends on the company and what they do. For homeowners like Dennis Koester, it's well worth it!

“I spend about $180 twice a year to make sure everything works when it's hot or cold. That’s great because a new furnace is probably $5,000 or $6,000 dollars I imagine for now. I haven't bought one for 20 years so I really don’t know,” Koester said with a laugh.

The final tip is to trim back bushes if they closely surround your AC unit. If you don’t, the bushes or grasses can greatly reduce airflow and efficiency.