When Do I Need Air Conditioner Repair?

    Circuit of an Air conditioner.jpg from Wikimedia Commons by Eatcha, CC-BY 4.0

    Uh oh. The A/C’s not working right. Does that mean you’ll be paying for air conditioner repair -- or is the problem something you can handle yourself?

    Here are 5 common air conditioning system malfunctions, with fixes broken down into 2 categories, “DIY” or “Call for air conditioner repair.”

    1. Air conditioner not switching on

      Despite a heat wave in progress, your A/C system does. Not. Switch. On. At. All.

      DIY? Look for the obvious. Could the plug have been accidentally dislodged from the socket? Or perhaps the breaker was tripped? Either one is simple to take care of.

      Call for repair? After you’ve checked both of the above and your system is still not responding, the most likely cause is a malfunctioning thermostat. In this case, you’ll need to find professional air conditioner repair.

    2. A/C not cooling (enough)

      Next scenario: you can hear the A/C motor running and cool air seems to coming out, but somehow your air conditioner is not cooling … at least not enough for your comfort level.

      DIY? Make sure the registers are open and unblocked. Turn off the power and clean or replace your filter. Clean the outside unit too. Turn your thermostat to “Auto.”

      Call for repair? Your A/C’s poor performance may be due to a low level of refrigerant, which probably means that you have a leak. This is a case for professional repair.

    3. A/C blowing hot air

      Picture this: you’re well into the middle of summer. Outdoor temp is in the high 90s and rising, yet somehow it seems hotter inside your house. Yikes, your air conditioner is blowing hot air.

      DIY? Once again, check your breaker board. This time, you’ll be looking to see whether the breaker for your A/C’s outside unit was tripped. If so, flip it back on.

      Call for repair? If the breaker immediately trips a second time, avoid damaging your unit. Leave the breaker alone and find a pro who will diagnose the underlying issue.

    4. Air conditioner running non-stop

      In this case, your ol’ air conditioner is working at least. Trouble is, the A/C seems to be running non-stop.

      DIY? Clean or change the filter. Remove debris from the outside unit. Ensure that the system’s air flow is not restricted by furniture, window treatments, etc. blocking the registers.

      Call for repair? If your air conditioner has not had a tune-up in over a year, call a maintenance technician to improve its efficiency. Have the blower motor checked out and repaired as needed.

    5. Air conditioner short cycling

      Here’s the opposite of Situation 4. Your air conditioning switches on, cools the home quickly, and then switches off in short order. The downside of this is that you get uneven cooling and insufficient dehumidifying, PLUS you wear the heck out of your system.

      DIY? (Re)consider your thermostat placement. The ideal location for an A/C thermostat is on an inside wall, away from the return air register. Otherwise, heat from outdoors or an influx of cool air might interfere with the thermostat’s functioning.

      Call for repair?
      The relatively simple scenario: You may need the low pressure control switch and compressor inspected and, if necessary, replaced. The plan-for-the-future scenario: If you’re looking to replace your A/C, choose a knowledgeable pro to perform a load calculation which determines the correct size for your needs; short cycling tends to be a symptom of an oversized A/C.

    Adjusting thermostat (crop) by Dept of Energy Solar Decathlon from Denver, CO/Wikimedia Commons

    Bonus Tips

    Here’s a great, green way to increase air conditioner efficiency: Make your system’s job easier. How?

    • Don’t put off changing the filter. Pleated filters usually should be replaced every 90 days – more often if you’re using the A/C heavily, if you have furry pets, or if someone in your household has allergies.

    • Insulate your ductwork. This helps conserve cooled air in summer, as well as heated air in winter. You’ll waste less energy and cut your utility bills.

    • Shade against the sun. Shelter your rooms from the full force of summer sun. Hang thermal curtains or, better yet, shade your windows outside – for example, install a canopy or (long term solution) plant a tree.

      A/C outdoor unit by Cohdra/Morguefile

    Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.

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