Air conditioning units are great when they’re working. When they suddenly stop on a hot day, however, it can be super frustrating. We get it. We always recommend getting your air conditioning unit serviced regularly, by qualified contractors, so you don’t have to suffer through the heat.
A bunch of different problems can arise from time-to-time. Maybe your air conditioning unit won’t switch on, or it’s not cooling properly. Maybe your electrical bill has suddenly spiked. A lot of times, when little things go wrong, you can easily fix them yourself. Here, we’ll run you through some of the most common issues we see so you can safely troubleshoot them on your own.
Want to skip ahead and just order a new A/C unit for your home? Talk to our expert technicians about your needs when you schedule an appointment.
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1. Check your HVAC system’s thermostat
Okay, you’ll definitely want to check this before you go ahead and call your local HVAC guys, but make sure your thermostat is set properly. This means not only double-checking your desired temperature, but that your system is set to COOL and not HEAT. Alaskan winters are long, so we all spend the majority of our year heating out homes, but a 30-second check could solve your problem.
2. Check your air conditioning unit’s filter
Dirty filters can cause a whole bunch of problems, ranging from low airflow to water leaks, hot and cold spots, higher energy bills, and even equipment failure. The good news is that this problem is easy to find and fix. Take a look at your air filter. You should be able to see straight through it, and it should be free of contaminants like dust, lint and mold. If it’s clogged with gunk, it needs replacing.
In order to function properly, air conditioning units need good airflow, so clogged filters can essentially suffocate your system. This can cause bigger problems, like ice forming on refrigerant lines and your evaporator coil freezing, which can eventually lead to an expensive system failure.
Filters for your air conditioning unit tend to be pretty inexpensive, so it’s worth keeping a few in your garage so it’s simple and easy to swap them out as needed.
3. Check all the air vents in your home
Air vents are really similar to air filters, in that the need to be free and clear for air to flow and your air conditioning unit to work as it should. Some people leave their air vents open all year, but it’s also possible to shut them off by pulling a level on the side of the vent or blocking it with a panel. To troubleshoot this, take a quick tour of your home and check that all your vents are fully open.
4. Check your air conditioning circuit breaker
If your air conditioning unit won’t turn on at all, it’s possible that your circuit breaker may have tripped. Go to your home’s main electrical panel. If you’re not sure where this is, go room to room and look for a large gray box – they’re usually located in your garage, basement, laundry room, or a closet somewhere. This box controls the amount of electricity that enters your home.
When you open the door, there will be a bunch of switches, which are all usually labeled. Look for the one that is connected to your air conditioning unit and make sure the switch is ON. Once you’ve turned it on, try running your air conditioning unit again (you may have to wait a few minutes).
However, if the switch immediately snaps back into the OFF position, don’t try to turn it back on. You’re going to need to call in your local HVAC experts, because this may indicate a larger problem.
5. Check the compressor for plants
Alaska’s sun is powerful, and although our summers are short, plants grow incredibly quickly with 18-20 hours of daylight. If you have a central air conditioning unit, and you need to make sure there’s at least 2-3 feet around the compressor for air to flow. If it’s choked up with grass, fireweed, or any other fast-growing plants, you’ll need to get out the weed-whacker and make some space.
Read more: 5 smart ways to cool your home this summer
Signs you need to ask the experts for help
The list above gives you a quick overview of simple ways you can troubleshoot your air conditioning unit. However, there are lots of different things that can go wrong. If any of the following sound familiar, it’s best to give your friendly local HVAC service a call and ask some technicians to visit:
If your home feels humid, this could indicate that your system is running low on refrigerant. Unfortunately, this usually means your system is leaking. If it’s leaking in just one spot, your technician may be able to fix it, but if there are multiple leaks, you may need a new unit.
If the airflow feels warm, this could mean your condenser coil is dirty or grimy. This will interfere with the transfer of heat, making your system work harder than it should. Alternatively, it could mean your evaporator coil is frozen, and unable to absorb heat.
If you have water leaks, it probably means your drainage system isn’t working properly. Air conditioning units remove water from the air, and then funnels it into a drain, but if the system clogs up the water may flow back into your system and cause a significant amount of damage.
If your unit is noisy, chances are high you have a mechanical problem. For example, the fan motors aren’t functioning properly, the belts are worn out, the bearings have deteriorated, or something has come loose and is rattling around inside. Shut the system down to avoid causing further damage.
If something doesn’t seem right, you’re always better to be safe than sorry. Well-maintained air conditioning units can last a long time, so call your HVAC technicians and ask them to take a look.
Why troubleshoot if you can prevent damage
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say again, but the easiest way to make sure your air conditioning unit is functioning properly is to schedule regular maintenance with a qualified HVAC service. HeatSource Mechanical has been troubleshooting air conditioning units in the Mat-Su Valley for 35 years. We’re excited to help find and fix any potential issues your air conditioning unit may have before they become a big deal. We’re here whenever you need us – in rain, hail, or glorious sunshine.
We hope this air conditioning troubleshooting guide was helpful. If you have any other questions, or you’d like us to take a look at your system this summer, schedule an appointment today.