When it is hot outside, you rely on your air conditioner to provide comfort and relief. When it’s not working, you are left feeling miserable in the inescapable heat.
Unfortunately, air conditioners always seem to quit on us in the middle of the hottest day of the year. This is not by accident. Usually this occurs because a neglected air conditioner can appear to work fine for the sporadic times it needs to run in spring and early summer, but the issues begin to surface when it is running more days in a row and for longer amounts of time on each of those days. The heavy strain can cause worn parts to finally stop working and for the whole system to become less efficient.
To avoid an uncomfortable summer, the best thing you can do for your air conditioner is to schedule a tune-up every year and frequently replace the air filters. During an inspection, a certified technician will be able to spot potential problems and offer solutions to fix them before they cause a complete breakdown later on in the season.
If you notice a problem with your air conditioner when you turn it on for the first time in the year, it’s important to call an experienced HVAC company right away to help you determine the issue at hand. You can then take care of the problem, or replace the unit if necessary, before the hottest days of summer arrive.
There are many reasons why your air conditioner isn’t working how you would like, whether it’s the beginning, middle, or end of the season. Below are a few common reasons why your air conditioner could not be working
Why is my air conditioner not working?
A faulty air conditioner is at best irritating and at worst a health risk. For at-risk individuals, an unreliable air conditioner can lead to indoor heat exhaustion and heat stroke if the home heats to dangerous enough levels. If you can, rule out a few of the below reasons why your air conditioner may not be working before you call a technician, this may help them discover the real reason behind your cooling troubles that much faster.
Without refrigerant, your air conditioner would have no way to cool the air before pumping it back into the home. If your home isn’t cooling as efficiently as it used to or it is not cooling down at all, despite the air conditioner running, then you may be low on refrigerant. You shouldn’t have to top off or replace coolant in its closed line, so there may be a leak somewhere in the line if it is much lower than the typical amount. Replacing a refrigerant line and filling it with more refrigerant may be more expensive if your air conditioner is older and still uses freon as the refrigerant. For newer models, repair may be less expensive.
Refrigerant runs through the evaporator coils to cool the warm air that comes into contact with the coils before entering the home. If there is an air circulation issue and warm air can’t get to the coils, the coils may freeze from the lack of heat transfer. The frozen coils then can’t cool the air down enough to maintain adequate temperatures in the home. You can try to solve this issue by changing out any dirty air filters and inspecting the return air ducts for any obstructions. If this doesn’t work, then you may need help from a professional.
Dirty condenser coils prevent the hot air from escaping into the atmosphere outdoors. This means your unit has to work harder to keep your home cool. If your home isn’t reaching cool enough temperatures for your preferences, then you may be overdue for an AC tune-up. Ignoring this issue can cause parts to wear out faster and lead to a premature unit failure.
From switches accidentally turned off, to breakers being flipped, to wires simply wearing out, there are many electrical issues that can be causing your air conditioner to not work. First, check to make sure that the indoor and outdoor disconnect switches are turned on.
Then, check your breaker box for any tripped breakers. If the breaker keeps tripping after reset, there may be something else connected to that line using part of the power. Turn it off and see if that helps. If it doesn’t, then you may need the help from a professional electrician.
If none of these are the issue, then you might have a dead “start” capacitor or dead “run” capacitor. These will need to be replaced by a certified technician. If your unit simply isn’t turning on or running, despite the thermostat working, then there is most likely an electrical component that needs repair or replacement.
If either of the two fans inside the air conditioner stop working, turn off your air conditioner right away. Keeping the unit running can cause more damage and lead to significant repair or replacement in a short amount of time. If you catch this issue soon enough, it may be a simple fix of lubricating parts, replacing a belt, repairing the motor, or cleaning dirt and grime off of essential components.
If ignored, not only will your home not cool properly, but your air conditioner’s compressor will eventually fail. At this point it’s usually more cost-effective to replace the air conditioner rather than repair it.
From pinholes to large gaps in ductwork, any amount of escaping air can make your air conditioner less efficient and increase your cooling costs. Holes and gaps can be caused by animals or shoddy installation work. If no obvious gaps are present, then a professional technician can perform a test to check for smaller holes throughout the system. Either way, duct repair and replacement should be performed by a professional.
Lastly, your air conditioner problems may be stemming from your thermostat. If the thermostat doesn’t seem to be working at all, replace the batteries or the unit itself to get it working again. Then, make sure your thermostat is set to the appropriate setting. You may just have it set to heat or fan instead of the cool setting.
Luckily, these are all simple fixes any homeowner can solve. If your unit still isn’t turning on, you may have an electrical problem or some other issue causing your faulty air conditioning.
How can I prevent these issues?
Nobody wants to deal with a broken air conditioner, especially during the heat of summer when it is needed the most. To prevent an untimely breakdown, you as the homeowner can take the following steps:
- Frequently replace the air filter. This should be done at least every 3 months, or more if you have pets. Adequate air flow is essential for proper air conditioner functioning. Obstructed air flow can lead to a whole host of problems, not to mention lowers the air quality in your home as well. Simply open the filter door to your unit, take note of the exact size of the air filter, and replace it with one that snugly fits in your unit. The higher MERV score the air filter, the more it will filter out of the air, such as allergens, germs, and dust.
- Clear debris from around the unit. Fallen leaves, twigs, and other debris can build up around the outdoor unit, which can impede proper air flow. Make sure you clear this debris before you turn on your unit for the first time each year. Also, leave enough clearance around the unit from other nearby objects.
- Schedule a yearly tune-up. A yearly tune-up from a qualified professional will help your air conditioner last as long as possible and run efficiently as possible from year to year. It may also help your warranty stay valid if you have a newer unit. Your technician can alert you to any repairs needed from year to year, which can help prevent larger issues from totally disabling the unit. A typical air conditioner can last between 10 and 15 years with regular maintenance.
- Call the professionals at any sign of trouble. If your air conditioner is on the fritz and you have completed the basic troubleshooting steps mentioned above, then the problem may need a professional to help solve. There’s no reason to suffer unnecessarily when expert help is only a phone call away. You may even catch a small issue before it grows into something irreparable.