Avoiding air-conditioner breakdowns

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A lot of things can affect how well a system works: how it's installed, the quality of the ductwork, even the size and layout of a house. But choosing a more dependable brand can boost your chances of getting a system that lasts. (KFSN)

If you're in the market to replace your air-conditioning system, don't sweat it. Consumer Reports can tell you which central air-conditioning systems hold up best and how you can sustain the chill for years to come.

A lot of things can affect how well a system works: how it's installed, the quality of the ductwork, even the size and layout of a house. But choosing a more dependable brand can boost your chances of getting a system that lasts.

To see which brands you can count on, Consumer Reports surveyed more than 16,000 of its subscribers. For conventional systems, American Standard proved more reliable than other brands.

Amanas are more likely to break; Consumer Reports estimates about 30 percent break within five years.

Heat-pump air conditioners are popular in areas with moderate temperature swings between summer and winter.

Among heat-pump systems, American Standard again is among the more reliable, along with Bryant.

York and Goodman are more likely to break. Consumer Reports estimates about fifty percent will break within five years. Even the most reliable air-conditioning system will let you down if you don't maintain it.

Here's how:

- Check and clean filters monthly.

- Clear debris and leaves from around the condenser coils

- Make sure hedges and plants are at least two feet away from the compressor.

- Check for blockages in the drainpipe.

- Check insulation around ducts. Bolstering insulation and sealing leaks can help prevent as much as a 40 percent energy loss.

- Once a year, bring in a licensed professional to check things like refrigerant and mechanical components.
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