When Your Air Conditioner Stops Working
One minute your air conditioner is working just fine, when suddenly you notice the house has gotten warm. Just like that, your air conditioner has stopped working.
Before you call an HVAC contractor for an emergency repair, try checking on a few things yourself. The problem may be something simple that does not require a trained professional to fix. Here are some reasons why the AC has stopped working and how you may be able to fix it.
Your Air Conditioner Has Stopped Working Completely
Often the problem is a simple power outage. Other times, a battery somewhere in the system, usually the thermostat, has died.
Here is a checklist of easy things you can do before calling the HVAC technician:
- Make sure the power to the house and/or neighborhood is on.
- Check the circuit breaker to make sure it has not been tripped due to an overload on the system caused by simultaneously running other appliances on the same circuit. Turn off any other appliances and then reset the breaker. If it trips again, you may have an electrical safety issue that needs to be checked by a qualified HVAC contractor.
- Check the thermostat and make sure the temperature setting has not been changed.
- Does the thermostat need new batteries?
- Check the outdoor condenser or the air handler/furnace. Make sure it is plugged in and check to be sure all power switches are in the on position. Double check the outlet—if it is a GFI, has the GFI been tripped?
- Check the air filters. They should be changed every three months. If they are old and dirty, the unit can be stressed and may malfunction and freeze up. Replace the filters and leave the system off for a few hours to allow it time to thaw. Then restart the system. If it is operating but not cooling, follow the guidelines below before calling for HVAC service.
The Air Conditioner Is Operating but Blowing Warm Air or Not Cooling Well
A common problem is the system comes on but is blowing only warm air, or not cooling the house. This can indicate a blockage caused by dirty filters or debris in the condenser. Take the following steps before calling in an HVAC technician:
- Install fresh air filters.
- Turn the unit off and hose down your condenser. Hold the hose about four inches from the machine and use slow up and down strokes to clean off any debris. You should see brown dirty water coming out at the bottom of the machine. Let it dry for at least ten minutes before restarting the system.
- If the system is still not cooling, turn the unit off for an hour. Set the thermostat at the ambient temperature, and then lower it in increments of four degrees each hour.
If none of these actions return the house to a comfortable temperature, you need to call an HVAC contractor. Your system may just be low on refrigerant and in need of charging.
Sometimes the refrigerant is low due to a leak in the system that must be repaired. If you have a leak, your technician may be able to repair it and determine if the system is able to hold a charge, or if it must be replaced. It could also mean that the compressor, a major component of your system, is failing.
The Blower Is On but the Outside Unit Is Not Operating
This is a problem that usually requires a professional to inspect and service the unit. You will probably need to replace some parts.
You Have No Air Flow or Little Air Flow
A sign of potentially serious problems is when the system is running but no air is blowing at all, or very little is blowing. This can be another indication that the compressor is failing. On the other hand, it could simply be that something is blocking the air ducts. If it has been several years since you last had your ducts cleaned, this may be a good time to do it. Again, your HVAC service technician can easily diagnose this problem.
You See Moisture or Leaking
If you see signs of moisture around your any of the components, you probably have a leak somewhere. The leak can be refrigerant, which needs to be repaired immediately. Refrigerant is a chemical that can be hazardous to the health of humans and pets. The leak could also be clogged tubing that drains the system’s condensation. This is a simple repair for the HVAC technician, but if the leak is bad enough it can damage wood and drywall, and cause mold growth.
Age of Your HVAC System
If your system is over ten years old, regular service to keep it functioning well is extremely important. Once the system reaches fifteen years, it really is considered old. It is probably time to replace it when it starts needing more frequent service or if you notice your energy consumption is higher but the comfort level in your home is not as pleasant as you would like. You may also notice that some rooms are cold, but others warm. The humidity levels may be noticeably higher than they should be. These are all signs that you should be preparing to replace your system.
If you do need to replace your system, discuss your options with the HVAC expert. Air conditioning systems on the market now are very energy efficient and can operate at less cost than older systems. Depending on factors such as your lifestyle and where you live, you may be able to offset the cost of a new system with the savings in reduced utility bills.
Contact a Reputable HVAC Technician
If you are having problems with your air conditioning system, contact an HVAC contractor who specializes in repairing and servicing air conditioning units. Your HVAC system is probably the most expensive mechanical system in your home. It pays to keep it in peak operating condition. Consult with a licensed professional HVAC technician about your air conditioning issues.