Summer doesn't officially begin until June 21, but sweltering temperatures will be here before you know it. To minimize skyrocketing utility bills, BBB offers some tips to help you stay cool without breaking the bank.

BBB recommends consumers do the following to prevent a breakdown when repair contractors are bombarded with other emergency calls.

Change your air filter regularly. Depending on the type of filter you use, plan to change it at least once per month. If it looks dirty, change it. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you cool. This wastes energy and leads to expensive maintenance and/or early system failure.

Tune up your HVAC equipment yearly. Before the summer heat really sets in, have a qualified contractor come out and do a tune-up. Nationally, BBB received nearly 1,000 complaints against residential air conditioning service companies in 2013, so it's important that you choose a contractor with a good reputation and track record by going to Finding potential problems before they arise will save money on costly repairs down the road. Scheduling a tune-up now might prevent a breakdown when it really gets hot from June through August.

A typical maintenance check-up should include:

 Check thermostat settings to ensure the cooling and heating system keeps you comfortable when you are home and saves energy while you are away.

 Tighten all electrical connections and measure voltage and current on motors. Faulty electrical connections can cause unsafe operation of your system and reduce the life of major components.

 Lubricate all moving parts. Parts which lack lubrication cause friction in motors and increase the amount of electricity you use.

 Check and inspect the condensation drain in your central A/C. A plugged drain can cause water damage in the house and affect indoor humidity levels.

 Check controls of the system to ensure proper and safe operation. Check the starting cycle of the equipment to ensure the system starts, operates, and shuts off properly.

 Clean evaporator and condenser air conditioning coils. Dirty coils reduce the system's ability to cool your home and cause the system to run longer, increasing energy costs and reducing the life of the equipment.

 Check your central A/C's refrigerant level and adjust if necessary. Too much or too little refrigerant will cause your system to run less efficiently, increasing energy costs and reducing the life of your equipment.

 Clean and adjust blower components to provide proper system airflow for greater comfort levels. Airflow problems can reduce your system's efficiency by up to 15 percent.

 By having these key items reviewed by a professional, the majority of the most common air conditioning repair calls can be eliminated.

 BBB also advises consumers to keep in mind that while most air conditioning service and installation companies are reputable, some companies may advertise "free" air conditioner tune-ups with the intent of charging for unnecessary repair work or equipment sales and reminds consumers to do their homework before selecting a company to inspect their AC unit.

For more tips on being a savvy consumer, go to To report a fraud or scam, call the BBB Hotline at 903-581-8373.






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