Is your HVAC unit leaking water, making odd noises, cooling unevenly, not blowing cold air, or not working at all? If so, you’re likely panicking wondering how you’ll manage the summer months with an AC not working properly. While some of these AC problems signal that your AC unit is in serious trouble, others may actually be simple, inexpensive fixes. To determine which is which, let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons your AC isn’t working properly.
- Air Filter Issues
Clogged and dirty air filters are a common reason for AC problems. It’s a simple and inexpensive part, but, left improperly maintained, it can cost you hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Filters for HVAC units are either reusable, meaning they need to be cleaned and returned to the unit, or replaceable, which means the old filter is discarded for a new one. All filters should be changed/cleaned according to the manufacturer’s suggestions. Depending on your unit, this can be anywhere from monthly to every four to six months.
Of course, wear also influences when a filter needs to be changed or cleaned. In environments where excess dust, dander, and other debris exist, you may need filter maintenance even more often than suggested by the manufacturer to prevent malfunction.
Dirty and clogged filters cause poor air quality within the home and contribute to indoor allergens. However, they also cause excess wear and tear to your HVAC unit, which inevitably causes it to operate less efficiently and stop working.
The problem is that a dirty air conditioner filter doesn’t allow sufficient airflow. The unit must work harder and longer to reach your desired temperature. Your electric bill is higher. Your HVAC parts, such as the air blower and heat exchanger, are enduring a heavy load. This can cause the unit’s evaporator coils to freeze up and the unit to stop blowing cold air, hot and cold spots in your home, and even complete unit failure.
Routine professional HVAC maintenance can help ensure filters are cleaned and changed as necessary. A rudimentary test to see if your filter needs changing is to shine a light on it. If light is unable to pass through the filter to the other side, then it’s likely time for a replacement or cleaning.
- Drain Line / Drain Pan Issues
All air conditioning units produce condensate. The excess moisture is drained into a drain pain via your AC’s drain line. In a similar vein to a clogged filter, the drain line can become clogged with debris, which then causes an overflow. Leaking can also occur if the drain line or drain pan suffers a hole or crack. You’ll likely notice copious amounts of water pooling near your AC unit.
- Thermostat Issues
Thermostats usually fall into one of two categories – dial style or programmable. Both do the same job, which is to control the temperature setting within your home. Most thermostat issues are related to being improperly calibrated (dial) or incorrectly programmed.
If the temperature in your home never seems to be what it should, recalibrate your dial thermostat or reset your digital thermostat to your desired settings. Do make sure that digital thermostats are in “cooling mode” and that the batteries in it are good. If the temperature inaccuracies continue, then you may need to replace your old thermostat.
Do keep in mind that the position of your thermostat matters in it operating correctly. It needs to be mounted level. It also needs to be away from influencers, such as direct sunlight, proximity to the heat of appliances, or nearby doors and windows.
Another common air conditioning issue is losing the cooling control signal that goes from the thermostat to the condenser unit, which will cause the condenser unit not to come on when it should.
- Refrigerant Leak Issues
HVAC refrigerant has a very specialized job inside your AC’s coils. It absorbs the heat from indoor air by transitioning from a gas to a liquid state. As it cools, it turns back into a gas to start the process again. It’s a never-ending cycle. Unlike your vehicle’s oil, AC refrigerant doesn’t need to be changed with use. Instead, the same refrigerant is designed to be continually recirculated.
Leaks along the refrigerant lines can stifle the above process by allowing precious refrigerant to escape. According to a popular St Petersburg air conditioning company, you should look for these signs your refrigerant is leaking:
- The unit freezes up frequently.
- You frequently lower and lower the thermostat to get the space to your desired temperature.
- The unit blows barely cool air.
- You hear hissing or gurgling sounds from your indoor unit.
- Your electric bill is higher than normal.
- Your home’s comfort level has declined.
While it’s tempting to just refill the air conditioning refrigerant to once again have cool air, this is just a temporary fix that doesn’t address why you’ve lost refrigerant in the first place. A professional HVAC technician will need to find and seal the holes before restoring your refrigerant levels.
Most HVAC refrigerant leaks start out small. You lose small degrees of comfort as the refrigerant levels decline. Yet, you see escalating electric bills as you try to accommodate by lowering your thermostat.
Meanwhile, your unit is enduring unnecessary hardship and wear and tear that could easily create a second HVAC problem. The compressor, for example, will eventually begin to overheat and seize if refrigerant levels get too low. Of note, overfilling your HVAC unit with refrigerant is just as damaging to your compressor because it overheats it.
- Electrical Issues
Breakers and fuses offer you a safeguard for the motor and compressor overheating. Instead of getting hot enough to catch fire, the breaker and fuse is thrown, and the unit stops working.
For a single-phase air conditioner, start capacitors offer an electric jolt to get the compressor and fan motors working. The run capacitor does a similar job with jolts that keep the motor going. If either burns out, your AC will be very inefficient. Initially, you may notice a fluid, burning smell, humming sound, and/ or actual smoke coming from the capacitor. Without proper repair, the AC may start turning itself off and/or stop blowing cold air.
The HVAC’s contactors make an electrical bridge for the condensing unit, which starts the compressor and motors. Arching, pitting, or even an ant infiltration can cause disruption to the electrical current. If you’re having difficulty controlling your desired inside temperature with your thermostat, an HVAC technician can distinguish if it’s a thermostat or contactor issue.