Troubleshooting common air conditioning problems
If the problem still exists after doing some basic troubleshooting, call an HVAC contractor for professional help.
When temperatures soar and your air conditioning unit decides to stop working, you need a quick solution. While many air conditioning repairs require a professional, homeowners can troubleshoot some common home A/C problems themselves.
Condenser isn't running
If your condenser isn't running, check the power to make sure the unit is plugged in. If so, check for a blown fuse or tripped circuit breaker. Restore the power and see if it starts.
Another potential cause is a thermostat that isn't set properly. Lower the thermostat by five degrees and see if it kicks on. If not, the problem is likely a faulty motor or compressor — a problem that will require professional help.
If the central air conditioning unit doesn't seem to be cooling your home adequately, start by lowering the thermostat five degrees. If that does not fix the problem, you may have a dirty evaporator. Carefully clean the evaporator and let it run for a few hours. If the problem remains, it could mean you have an improperly sized air conditioner.
Keep in mind that an extremely hot day may impact your unit's effectiveness. If temperatures outside are over 100 degrees, you may not be able to achieve 62 degrees inside your home, especially if you have a lot of windows letting in the sun's energy. Always consult with a professional before making the decision to replace your unit, especially if temperatures have been unusually high.
Unit runs but doesn't cool
If your A/C is running but you don't feel any cool air, you should still check the thermostat. Next, take a look at the condenser. Is it dirty or blocked? If so, clean it and remove the blockage. The condenser can become blocked by tall weeds, grass or other airborne debris.
It could also be the result of a faulty compressor, or an inadequate amount of refrigerant in the system. Again, these are problems that a professional needs to address.
Unit shuts on and off repeatedly
This is another problem that can happen with a dirty or blocked condenser unit, as well as a dirty evaporator. Most of the time, giving the entire unit a good cleaning and removing any obstructions will eliminate the problem.
When to call a professional
Cleaning your air conditioner is something you can do on your own, provided you have a basic understanding of the parts of the unit. But any time you need to address the coolant, you need the help of a professional HVAC contractor. If you've already done some basic troubleshooting and the problem still exists, you need to call an HVAC contractor.
This is an updated version of a story originally posted on Sept. 20, 2012.