Stay cool in summer by having your air conditioner working at peak condition.

IMAGINE you're hosting Christmas lunch, you have all the family and a house full of guests settling in for the festivities and by 11am it is nudging the low 30s. Murphy's Law says it is at this precise moment your air conditioning will fail when the water pump throws a bearing.

What could you have done about it? The aircon folk who know, say a simple pre-summer service would most likely have picked up the issue early.

Having your air conditioner serviced annually, preferably BEFORE the warm weather kicks in, should be on the must-do list for any homeowner (or renter), because a service can prevent a minor problem becoming a major problem.

It is not life and death, but very much an inconvenience if you lose your air conditioning. People work better and function better when they are cooled. It's best to be proactive, not reactive.

There can be mechanical and natural reasons for an air conditioning system to break down, from a loose screw or corroded wire, to an errant gecko in the electrics or wasps' nest on fan blades in a system that has been dormant for six months.

Nothing breaks down between nine and five, Monday to Friday. It will always break down at an inconvenient time.

Get the machine checked out because you might have a bolt ready to snap or a wire just coming loose.

If you don't get it checked out, when it is five, six or seven days running flat out, that's when it will show up the symptoms.

COOL IT, MAN: Getting your air-conditioning serviced before the hot weather kicks in can save the cost of a major repair and the angst of living with a breakdown.

KEY TERMS: Do you know what sort of airconditioning you need, and what each of them actually do to keep you cool?

Try out these key terms before you go shopping.

Evaporative: Outside air passes through a wet filter to cool and humidify the air, which is then blown through the house.

Air conditioning: Refrigerated cooling of the air. Also maintains humidity.

Air conditioners come in several types -

Reverse-cycle: Can heat as well as cool, providing year-round climate control.

Portable units: Good for cooling a small room or individual. Can be moved as needed.

Window/wall units: Sits both inside and outside, poking through a window or wall. Cheap to purchase, expensive to run.

Split system: A system with the compressor unit outside the house and the air outlet inside.

Ducted: Air is pumped through ducts into different parts of the home. The fan coil is mounted in the ceiling, the condensing unit is outside the home (split system).

Zoning: A way for a ducted unit to blow air into designated rooms (zones).

Inverter: Uses electricity more efficiently to deliver a fixed amount of cooling and maintain a desired temperature instead of stopping and starting.