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Homeowners: Five steps to avoid contractor fraud

Monday, April 1, 2013 - 12:00am

(StatePoint) When the weather heats up, your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system quickly becomes a most valuable player in your home life and stays that way for several months. However, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than 3 million HVAC systems fail each year. Do you know if it's time to maintain, repair or replace your air conditioning system?

"Air conditioning is a big investment in your home. Learning what maintenance steps you can take on your own and what questions to ask your air conditioning contractor, can save you time, money and keep you comfortable this season," says Frank Landwehr, Vice President of Emerson Climate Technologies, a major provider of equipment used in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems.

Remember, not all maintenance needs to be outsourced. Here are some preventive tasks to take that can extend the life of air conditioning equipment:

o Change air filters: A general rule is to change indoor ductwork filters every three months or at the beginning of every heating and cooling season. Ensure the filter is sized correctly, fitting snuggly.

o Keep the outdoor unit clean: Keep coils free of debris by hosing off with light pressure. Any bushes or shrubs should be trimmed back away from the unit.

o Let air flow: Maintain a reliable airflow to reduce moisture buildup which can lead to mold. Keep vents open. Similarly, keep internal doors open inside your home to maintain air flow.

o Clean duct grills: Annually, clean the vents and grills at the opening of each duct in every room by lifting the grill out of the floor, wiping with a rag or vacuuming to remove dust and debris.

o Keep condensate drain open: A stopped up condensate line can lead to expensive water damage. Keep the drain line clean and the drain tube open and clear to prevent backup.

Good maintenance will only get you so far. Eventually, your equipment will need to be replaced. Landwehr offers these tips for when that time comes:

oHire wisely: Even the best equipment won't provide comfort if it's not sized and installed properly. Hire only a certified A/C technician you trust. Also, remember that not all contractors will carry the brand you want. Determine what features and comfort level you want so you can identify a contractor that can fill your need.

o Educate yourself: You can make smarter investment decisions if you're speaking the same language as your contractor and they understand what you want. You can hone your A/C knowledge online at fact-based, objective resources like www.AC-HeatingConnect.com.

o Save money: A few features can go a long way toward maximizing energy efficiency, saving you money in the long run. Use a programmable thermostat to avoid wasting money on cooling costs when no one is home. Also, consider a high efficiency air conditioner with a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating of above 16.

This season, keep your cool. Take the time to maintain, repair and replace your A/C equipment when necessary.

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