Air conditioners can be stressed in the hot summer months, but service and maintenance contracts aren’t necessarily worth it.
WASHINGTON — Air conditioners can be strained during the hot summer months, but service and maintenance contracts aren’t necessarily worth it.
Washington Consumers’ Checkbook thinks most companies sell service contracts to keep workers busy during the low season. “These are generally not very good deals for consumers,” says Kevin Brasler, editor of Checkbook.
Most contracts provide for semi-annual checks on equipment, but do not cover repairs for any problems that may be discovered. And Checkbook finds there’s no evidence that service contracts extend the life of air conditioning units.
Prices for new equipment or units can vary widely, so Checkbook recommends consumers get at least three estimates before making a purchase. Brasler recommends getting up to five estimates.
Secret shoppers at Checkbook found prices ranged from $209 to over $1,000 to have the same programmable thermostat installed. Because prices vary widely, Checkbook recommends consumers get at least three estimates before making a purchase, and Brasler says five estimates are better than three.
Plus, price doesn’t reflect quality, “high-quality HVAC services are just as likely to offer low prices as lousy ones,” Brasler says.
The trick is to shop around.
Service or equipment proposals must detail a lump sum price in writing.
“Don’t settle for an estimate with an hourly rate,” says Brasler. “Good companies will tell you after diagnosis exactly how much it will cost to repair or install it.”
According to Checkbook, the most important thing homeowners can do for their air conditioners is replace the air filters as needed. Dirty filters make the air conditions more difficult and can lead to breakdowns.
The checkbook ranks the quality and prices of 221 area air conditioning repair companies here.
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