AC restore: troubleshooting and repairing an air conditioner

During a hot phase, local AC companies are often inundated with service requests. After all, most homeowners don't turn their air conditioners on or think about them until the weather warms up. If you haven't scheduled a spring air conditioning inspection and maintenance, your cooling system may have some surprises in store for you. From a broken thermostat to strong, unpleasant smells, many things can go wrong the first time you turn on the cooling system.

Fortunately, there may be a few things you can do to fix some of the most common, minor issues.

What to do if the airflow is insufficient

One of the simplest air conditioning solutions that any homeowner can handle on their own is to replace a dirty air filter. If too much dirt can build up on the filter surfaces, the airflow can decrease dramatically. Replacing this component will improve indoor air quality (IAQ) and increase the output of chilled air in each room. Be aware, however, that even a dirty air filter can indicate a far bigger underlying problem. For example, when your plumbing has reached the end of its useful life, air leaks can cause your air conditioner to pull musty air and large amounts of potentially harmful particles out of attic areas. Therefore, it is best to schedule a full, professional inspection even after successfully resolving your airflow problem. If you don't, your new, cleaner filter may not last long.

When your air conditioner won't turn on

As with any air conditioner problem, there are a multitude of possible reasons why your air conditioner won't turn on at all. When troubleshooting, you want to start with the most basic causes first. For example, make sure that nothing is wrong with your device's power supply. A circuit may have blown or a fuse may have blown. Once you know how to look for these things, you no longer have to call the professionals. However, if the circuit fails repeatedly, you must contact an approved HVAC contractor or electrician.

The thermostat doesn't do its job

The thermostat is the central control of your HVAC system. If it doesn't work or if the temperatures are not showing correctly, your cooling system will not activate. Set the thermostat to the lowest temperature and wait a few minutes. If your air conditioner still won't turn on, this device likely needs repair or replacement. If you've recently upgraded to an advanced, smart thermostat, keep in mind that these devices may be difficult to program, especially as you are just getting used to them and their far more extensive functions and features. In this case, you should spend some time reading the accompanying user manual and learning various program functions.

In older homes, thermostats that are not properly arranged are often a problem. For example, if your thermostat is near a heat source such as the stove, the temperatures will likely get a little higher than what is actually advertised. Moving, replacing, recalibrating, or repairing your thermostat is an easy and relatively inexpensive solution.

The air coming out of your air conditioner is not cold.

Your AC power may turn on and run reliably, but it may not be able to distribute cold air. If it's been going on for a while and your rooms are still feeling hot, put your hand near a register or vent to test the temperature of the conditioned air released. Warm air can cause problems with the capacitor coil. If too much dirt and debris build up on this component, it can start to freeze. Once it does it will stop working effectively and the air coming out of your vents will not provide the relief you need.

Air conditioning troubleshooting and repair - Air conditioning repair

Take a look at your capacitor

Checking the external condensing unit on your central HVAC system is always an important part of troubleshooting, even if you don't expect problems in this area. This major component of your alternating current is constantly exposed to the elements. While it likely has a durable and well-designed cover, dirt and other materials can be blown in easily. Additionally, unrolled weeds and other growths can block your condenser, negatively affecting both airflow and heat transfer. Be sure to remove any excess foliage from this area. If this doesn't fix your problem, it will at least serve to make the capacitor more accessible to your HVAC service provider.

A clogged drain pipe

Your air conditioner not only cools your home, but it also helps to reduce the level of humidity indoors. Without this helpful feature, your living area could feel hotter than it really is, condensation could build up on your windows and mold and mildew problems could arise. While it doesn't seem like a ton of excess water is building up from the air, the moisture used by your air conditioner will add up quite a bit over time. This moisture collects in a drip pan, where it is channeled through a relatively thin drain pipe before escaping via an actual drain. If the drain line becomes clogged, the drain pan will fill up and moisture damage will occur in and around the area. If you open your air conditioner to discover an overfilled sump, clean up any remaining water and contact a local HVAC service immediately.

Handle your air conditioning warranty with care

One of the most important air conditioning troubleshooting tips that every homeowner should keep in mind is to never attempt any work that will void the manufacturer's warranty. Fortunately, parts that homeowners should never tamper with are often clearly labeled by manufacturers. If you damage these labels and remove covers from complex, moving components, you may have to pay the bill for repairs that would otherwise be warranted. When in doubt, always call a specialist.

Some of the most common air conditioning problems aren't as serious as they first seem. Don't panic if your air conditioner won't turn on. Repairing it can be as simple as replacing a blown fuse or resetting the circuit. If you run into more serious problems or if the troubleshooting doesn't work, you can always contact a reputable HVAC company or contact directly for a quick fix receive.

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