Beat the Heat!

Written by  Mark Cukro
  • font size decrease font size decrease font size increase font size increase font size A few simple steps during the make-ready process can help your service team reduce A/C calls and prevent leaks.

No doubt about it, it's HOT, and your lead maintenance is probably thinking, "How can I reduce A/C service calls?" One simple answer is that preventive maintenance equals savings. Take care of your HVAC system and it will take care of the residents and result in fewer service calls.

For many of us it is a hot and hectic summer, and we want fewer A/C calls - and for some reason, they often seem to come in all at once. For anyone on call, it can seem as if it happens at 4:59 every Friday afternoon.


One effective way to reduce the amount of A/C calls is to check the entire system during the make-ready process and label the outdoor units/condensers to identify which unit each is actually connected to. How many times have you found a unit that had the wrong number on it?

Whether it was a unit that had a different number on the electrical disconnect compared to what is written on the actual unit itself or if the outdoor unit was completely on a different side of the building with no unit number identifying the unit, this is a time-waster that can be very frustrating.

One way to avoid this snafu is to use vinyl stickers on the disconnect box and unit. They are inexpensive and do not fade quickly like markers and paint pens. In my experience, if the sticker ever does get peeled off, you can almost always make out the numbers and letters.


The difference between the air going into the return grill and coming out of the supply vent should be around 15-20 degrees. In other words, if it is 100 degrees in someone's home, the coldest the supply air will be is 80-85 degrees. If it is 80 degrees in a home, the coldest the air coming out of the vents should be is 60-65 degrees. If the difference is too high, that means something may need to be corrected, such as airflow, or that the charge is either too high or low.


If an A/C unit doesn't have excellent airflow, it cannot and will not operate at its maximum capacity or efficiency and as a result will give incorrect gauge pressures. Cleaning the indoor and outdoor coils during a turn doesn't take too much extra time, and the time is well worth the reduction in A/C calls and unnecessary overtime, and most of all, it will prevent an overworked service team.


Many of us have been bombarded with A/C calls over the past few months and corrected more than our share of undercharged units. Historically what happens next when the A/C systems are up and running is condensation leaks, which can wreak havoc on your ceilings and carpets and really make a mess while frustrating a resident.

Cleaning out drain pans and adding something as simple as a sludge-preventing drain tablet can save a fortune in time and frustration and prevent you from making a return trip. Let's face it - the last thing a technician wants to do is make several trips to the same home for the same or similar problem.

Keep in mind that condensation water is absolutely filthy and should be treated whenever it leaks. It has been known to harbor the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease, so please be sure to disinfect any area that has come in contact with condensation. Many reports show that it carries more harmful bacteria than raw sewage!

An ounce of prevention will save you a pound of work, so install the tablets. They will make a difference. Clean coils whenever you get a chance, and of course, the best time to install the drain tablets is during the turn process. If you make it a habit, I guarantee you'll get fewer condensation leaks.


If the A/C isn't blowing cold, checking the refrigerant level is a no-brainer. Checking the charge is one of the best ways to determine if an A/C is functioning, but it should also be one of the last checks made, because if the coils are clean and the airflow is correct, then the gauges will give a much more accurate and telling measurement. TRAIN THE TEAM

Teams that continuously train perform better than teams that don't. Whether it is a refresher class for an experienced technician, troubleshooting tips or an introduction for a new technician, training always costs less than one resident with no A/C for a few days.

here About the author: Mark is the President of Plus One Consulting, Inc. and founder of Service Team Mark is a national speaker and a leading resource in the industry. His certifications include, CAPS, CAMT I, CAMTII, CPO Instructor with the National Swimming Pool Foundation, EPA proctor for the 608, 609, and R-410a certifications, and he is a proctor for all HVAC Excellence courses. Mark is also a NAAEI Instructor and was a subject matter expert for the new CAMT program.