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Common Air Conditioner Problems and Repairs

By Justin Riley March 12, 2019

Depending on where you live, having air conditioner problems can pose an existential threat to the comfort of your home. And, chances are you don’t live in a city where the temperature is perfect year round. 

Thankfully, there are ways to return to the sweet bliss of having a functional AC unit.

This guide covers the most common air conditioner problems and solutions. Remember that some of these can be tried at home; but others should definitely be left up to the professionals.

Luckily, professionals are needed less often than you might think.

The following tips can help you solve the common AC problems you’ll come across and help you find out if you need to call a technician.

Dirty Filter

Have you noticed your air conditioner turning itself on and off constantly? Air conditioners are supposed to turn on and off throughout the day.

However, if they do this with greater frequency than usual, this is a problem called Short cycling.

A dirty filter can cause your AC to short cycle. Some AC units can have their filters changed every month or every three months.

However, neglecting to change the filter at all can lead to a buildup of dirt. This dirt buildup can prevent air from getting past the vent. As less air exits the vent, the temperature doesn’t decrease as much as it should.

The thermostat detects this, and it is forced to turn on more often to reach the desired temperature.

Furthermore, the buildup can also have negative effects on your health. Pet dander, pollen, and other allergens can get into your vent.

The AC will blow what little air it can as well as dirt from the filter. This dirt will float around the air in your house, causing sneezing or setting off asthma attacks.

This problem gets worse as time goes on, so it’s important to change your filter consistently.

Refrigerant Leaks  

Refrigerant leaks can be caused by many things. Hair spray, vibrations, and an undercharged system at the time of installation are all culprits.

However, the most likely case is just that the coils degraded through time.

A refrigerant leak is best handled by professionals. The common DIY solution is to recharge the system, add more coolant, and hope for the best. This is unwise.

If refrigerant is leaking, the condenser coil has microscopic holes in it. Simply adding more coolant will just cause them to leak all over again.

The problem will also will also get worse. More holes will continue to develop, and cause even more expensive problems.

Trying to repair or replace the condenser coils yourself is not recommended. Finding the, replacing the unit, and refilling the refrigerant is complicated.

Any damage to the condenser coils caused by improper replacement or recharge can render our AC unable to remove hot air from your house.

This will effectively render your AC useless, and force you to call a professional.

Water Leaks

AC units are not supposed to leak water inside at any point. Water is supposed to be caught by the overflow pan.

This pan then goes to the condensate line, where it drains water outside or into a drainage pipe.

If the condensate line becomes clogged, the overflow pan will not be able to drain water. This causes water to leak.

Thankfully, these problems do not require the help of professionals to fix.

In a room AC unit, you should unplug it before doing anything. Pull the unit out of the window, and look for a pan you can pull out. Once you’ve found it, drain any water and inspect it for damage.

If there is no drain pan, look for a rubber plug at the back or the bottom. Pull this plug to drain the AC of water.

In a central air conditioning unit, the drain pan is below the furnace blower. Again, drain the water from it and inspect it for damage. If a drain pan is broken, they are cheap to replace.

Or you can repair them with epoxy.

If the condensate line is clogged, you can scrape the clog out or suck it out with a vacuum.

Thermostat

Thermostats can mostly be maintained by users, but persistent problems may require a technician to fix.

The most basic way to maintain a thermostat is through cleaning. Keeping dirt away from the surface and the internals helps prevent improper readouts.

The easiest way to prevent ac problems is by handling it delicately. Any bumps or force to the thermostat can prevent it from being able to start the AC.

Keeping your thermostat out of the sunlight is also important. On bright days, the sun can melt key components of the thermostat.

Making sure your thermostat is level can also prevent guts of it from falling out of place and causing problems.

Calling a professional is most appropriate if something goes wrong with the wiring.

If you don’t know how to handle circuit breakers and fuses, it’s best to call an HVAC technician.

A technician can also be of help when deciding what kind of thermostat best suits your needs. Modern thermostats are varied. Some allow connection through an app to schedule cycles and are better for different kinds of houses.

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Hot Air

If your AC is blowing hot air it could be caused by something as simple as a messy air filter that needs changing.

There is also the possibility that the outdoor unit needs to be cleaned and maintained.

However, if a fuse was blown, do not make any attempt to repair this yourself. The wiring in your unit may be old. Any further intervention, like trying to turn it back on, can cause an electrical fire.

There is also a risk of electrocution. If the fuse was blown because of loose wiring, handling the unit further can shock you.

Thankfully, not all reasons your AC is blowing hot air are deadly. Sometimes it can be as simple as someone having bumped the AC and switching the dial to heat.

The AC can blow hot air if it is set to “on” mode instead of “auto”.

This is because “on” mode only turns on the fan. If the fan is the only thing that’s on, it’s natural that it would only blow hot air.

Frozen Coils

If the condenser coils in your AC freeze up, it can cause a blockage to the condensate pipe and make sure you never enjoy a frosty night again.

Thankfully, you most likely will not have to call a technician to fix this problem.

Frozen coils are usually due to dirty filters that end up cooling the AC more if it doesn’t cool your house. They can also be caused by closed air vents, so make sure that the vents are always open and clear of dirt.

Thawing out your coils is easy. All you have to do first is turn your thermostat off. Then, turn the fan on. This causes hot air to blow through the house and the vents, melting the ice surrounding the coil.

The Worst of All Air Conditioner Problems: Inadequate Maintenance

Unfortunately, there are times when calling an HVAC technician is a must. Although there are many things you can check for yourself, some problems don’t present any symptoms.

Some parts of the unit may come loose, may need to be repaired, and pressure can build up in certain parts of the machinery.

Lubricating parts of the AC are also complex. It is difficult to know when exactly to lubricate them. Problems are likely to emerge before they can even be properly lubricated.

In all likelihood, the average person is not equipped to deal with any of these problems. It is important to make sure that HVAC technicians are called every season to make sure everything is running alright.

Extending the Life of Your AC

The key to maintaining your AC is to pay constant attention to it. Neglecting any of the issues your AC might give you will inevitably cost you much more money in the future.

Worst of all, neglecting your AC for long enough can cause many problems to come up. In this case, the entire unit might have to be replaced. Replacing a room AC is relatively easy, if expensive.

But having a defunct central air unit can cost several thousand dollars. You're better off not letting it get to that point.

Even if you have the money to pay the cost, it takes time and effort to install a new one. All the while, you will not have an efficient way to cool your house.

Making sure your AC lasts as long as possible is in the best interest of you and your comfort.

If you have any reason to believe your AC needs maintenance, you can schedule a low cost diagnostic visit here.


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