Our administrative staff has gotten very good at being intuitive about what a potential customer really needs from a Freedom Heating, Cooling & Electrical – service technician. With all that fancy HVAC jargon like AC tune-up, diagnostic service call, HVAC inspection, or safety inspection, how are you supposed to know what it is that you should be asking for when you call in?

In this blog post we’re going to narrow it down to our most needed services.  Let’s talk about how to tell if you need an AC tune-up or a diagnostic service call.


I’m really not trying to bug anyone here, but it’s true that some people will call in to Fox Family and say they need us to come out and do a tune-up on their system.  So, we’ll ask them something like, “Is your system currently working okay?”  or, “Are you having any problems with your system right now?” and they’ll say, “Yeah, but I notice a burnt smell coming from the registers and not as much air seems to be coming out.” Or, “Yeah, but it’s not as cool in here as it used to be, so I just thought you could come out and add some freon.”

Tune-Ups & Service Calls

So, here’s a chance for me to clarify the difference between a diagnostic service call and an AC tune-up/maintenance. What we’re trying to identify when you call in to Freedom is whether your AC is running just fine or if you think something just isn’t right. Folks who call us for a tune-up think their system is running just fine. But they just believe getting preventive maintenance will make their system run cleaner and last longer.

When we come out on a tune-up, we have a checklist of things we are looking at. The main components of the system — your thermostat, your filters, and the ductwork. We’re also checking things like the temperature of the air coming out of the registers in your rooms versus the temperature of the air going into where your filter is in the hallway. Then we start really looking into the major motors and devices in the system that make your machine work. With our meters and other testing equipment, we can see what’s going on inside the motor.  Is it working too hard, and is the right voltage being applied to it? Is there enough refrigerant in the system?

On top of the mechanical components of the system we look at the drainage system, refrigerant metering devices, and high voltage wiring and tighten connections as needed. We can also check for shrubs around the AC that might prevent proper heat transfer, make sure the unit is level, and of course clean the AC as well. Your utility company and Freedom think a clean air conditioner will last longer than a dirty one.

Diagnostic Service Call

You might also call us if your system isn’t running quite the way you think it should be. Meaning the Friday before you went camping for the weekend, the AC was working just fine. But now the air coming out doesn’t seem to be as cold. This means you’re calling for a diagnostic service call.  Some people just call it a service call.

Here, your technician will ask you a few questions about your system and go straight for the problem so you can begin cooling as soon as possible. They won’t really be interested in combing over the entire system with a fine brush. But they will make sure the rest of your AC is functioning properly, so you won’t have any foreseeable problems. Having said that, you technician is probably not going to replace your capacitor in the outdoor unit and discover that your drain line isn’t functioning properly since you didn’t give us any reason to check on it’s performance.

Another example would be something like discovering your compressor was bad but two weeks later your control board goes out because of a fractured solder connection. That’s something we’d likely see and tell you about on a furnace tune-up in the winter but not really look for when we are just trying to get your system cooling again on a 100-degree day.

I know there are some weird nuances I’m talking about here, but hopefully I’m making sense. On tune-ups, we are looking for anything that’s running well as well as what’s running poorly or could potentially break down soon. We’re also there to clear the condensate drain pipes and clean the system.

The Goal of a Diagnostic Service Call

Getting you back up and running as soon as possible is the main goal on a diagnostic service call.  Technicians will typically look around the unit they are working on. For example, if the AC outside has a capacitor fail and you thought the system was working just fine until yesterday when you called us, they’ll likely just change the capacitor and maybe even forego climbing in the attic to do a thorough analysis of anything that might be going wrong with it.

We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t sometimes. Some folks want to pay as little as possible to get their system back up and running, and almost find it offensive if we recommend other repairs. These repairs might not actually prevent the system from running today, but could go out soon. Others say, “Well, why didn’t you bring that up last time you were here two months ago?”

Providing Sound Advice on a Service Call

All in all, I think technicians are just trying to do right by their customer. But you do need to beware of some companies that pay their technicians primarily based on what they sell. Some of these technicians don’t care about being practical with you or your money. This is called “performance-based pay.” They’re going to bring up every possible flaw with your system and perhaps try to sell you things you don’t need. If they don’t, they can’t put food on the table for their family.

The company doesn’t pay them unless they sell something to you. I personally don’t believe in this philosophy practiced by some of the HVAC companies around the Chicagoland area. They’re the companies giving the HVAC industry a bad name around here. They have greedy company owners and highly sales-oriented technicians motivated only by money.

We pay our techs a good salary, provide benefits, and well deserved bonuses. We count on them to treat our customers with practical, sound advice for their AC system. This creates a good relationship with our customers for the long run, and an honest company to do business with.

Service Call Pricing

Whether you need a simple tune-up or a diagnostic service call, you can always count on the Freedom Family. Knowing the difference means you’re better prepared. You can make the phone call to your HVAC company and tell them exactly which service you need.

A tune-up won’t correct a broken system, much like a tune-up or oil change on a car isn’t going to fix your transmission problem. Tune-ups may identify some issues with your system that you didn’t know existed. But a diagnostic service call may identify the need for regular preventive maintenance in the form of a tune-up.