When your air conditioner starts making a strange noise or stops working altogether, it’s easy to panic. Many homeowners don’t possess a detailed knowledge of cooling systems, which can make tackling a broken air conditioner intimidating. The truth is, though, that not every HVAC issue requires professional help. In some cases, the average homeowner can resolve the problem themselves by running through a simple troubleshooting list.
Below are some common cooling system issues that may arise this summer, as well as the air conditioner fixes that can get your equipment running smoothly again, without the expensive repair bill.
Air Conditioner Troubleshooting Checklist
Before you call an HVAC contractor, take the following steps:
Check the Thermostat Settings
If your thermostat is adjusted without your knowledge, the settings may not be correct to call for cooling. Your thermostat should be set to cooling mode and the fan set to “AUTO.”
If that isn’t the issue, make sure the thermostat has power. Replace the batteries with fresh ones. If your thermostat is hardwired to the home’s electrical system, check the breaker to ensure it has not been tripped, cutting off power to the thermostat.
Then, take a look at the temperature settings. The temperature should be set below the home’s current temperature to trigger the air conditioner to start up. On programmable models, make sure the hold or vacation mode has not been activated, pausing your active settings.
Check Your Air Conditioner’s Power Source
Lack of power is likely the most common reason for an air conditioner not turning on. Before you call an HVAC professional, make sure to your AC has power running to it. Check the exterior unit to ensure it is plugged in, and the exterior switch near the condenser should be set to “ON”. Then, go to your home’s electrical panel and ensure the breakers powering the air conditioner’s condenser and air handler are not tripped and are functioning correctly.
Check the Air Filter
When is the last time you replaced your air filter? A clogged air filter could prevent the cooling system from starting. Dirty air filters limit airflow through the system, causing the system to work harder and longer than it needs to. This often causes the system to overheat and it may trigger the system to shut down in order to protect itself from damage. If your AC is blowing warm air, this is one of the first things you want to remember to check.
Replace your dirty air filter with a new one, or give your reusable filter a good cleaning. Insert the filter properly and give your system some time to cool down if it just recently stopped coming on.
Check the Outdoor Unit (Condenser)
Another reason why your air conditioner isn’t cooling your home down could be due to the fact that your outside unit is dirty and needs a good cleaning. The condenser cannot dissipate heat if it’s been blocked with debris, tree limbs, dirt, overgrown grass or bushes, or trash. Even placing patio furniture to near the condenser can potentially hinder your AC's performance.
It’s important to clean and inspect the area surrounding your outside unit often to ensure that your unit can dissipate heat the way that it should and work in conjunction with your inside unit’s evaporator coil to keep your home cool.
Check the Air Ducts
Duct leaks allow cool air to exit the duct system before entering your home. You may feel air coming through your registers, but since up to 30 percent of energy can be lost through duct leaks, that air may not be cool.
If your ducts are accessible, inspect for disconnected sections, holes, and gaps. While some homeowners prefer to work with an HVAC contractor for duct issues, you may feel comfortable sealing minor leaks on your own.
Note: Duct tape is not the answer! Duct tape delaminates, losing its sealing ability quickly. The proper sealant for duct leaks in duct joints is mastic. Duct joints should be secured with sheet metal screws, then mastic is applied across the duct seams, sealing the holes that allow air to leak out.
When to Call an HVAC Professional
While there are plenty of things you can do on your own to combat common problems with your air conditioner, there are several instances where you need to contact a professional:
- Strange Noises Coming from Your AC: Is your air conditioner making loud banging, clanging, or other unfamiliar noises? If these sounds are coming from your air conditioner or vents, you likely have a serious problem. This is not something you can fix on your own, but an HVAC professional will understand the issue and find a solution.
- Issues with the Outdoor Unit: If your outdoor air conditioner unit is the problem, you should not try to fix this yourself. While changing your air filters and replacing batteries is perfectly fine for you to do on your own, fixing more complicated mechanical issues may void your warranty. For true maintenance issues, it’s best to contact a professional.
- Improperly Installed AC: If you suspect that your air conditioner was not installed properly, you should call a professional to reinstall or fix it as soon as possible.
When all else fails, you need the experience and know-how of a true HVAC pro. You could have a more complicated issue with your air conditioner, such as a refrigerant leak, failed part, clogged drain pan, or dirty coils. These types of jobs should be left to the professionals to avoid damage to your system.
If you need air conditioning repair in Orange County, Air Care Heating And Air Conditioning (949)482-2911 has you covered. For a free estimate, give us a call today at (949) 482-2911.