Mar 13, 2019

Air Conditioner Troubleshooting – Common A/C Problems & Fixes

Air Conditioner Troubleshooting

Here in Texas, we embrace several stereotypes.  We proudly say, “Bless your heart.”  We love our sweet tea – sweet. Nothing makes us more proud than being a Texan, and our air conditioners are the most treasured appliance in our homes.  The heat in Texas can get unbearable, and it starts early in the year.  We don’t have to wait for summer to feel the burn! Ensuring that our air conditioners are working properly year-round is a necessity every Texan can appreciate.

When your A/C isn’t running efficiently, you could be in for some serious discomfort in your home. Air conditioner troubleshooting is something every homeowner should be familiar with, especially in the south. These common A/C problems and fixes should help you keep that cold air flowing, whenever you need it.  And remember, when your air conditioner troubleshooting becomes a more serious issue, call on Fixd to come out and cool you off!

Quick fixes – Sometimes, it’s a simple, quick fix, and doesn’t require air conditioner troubleshooting.  Check these things prior to really digging in on your DIY maintenance.

  • DEBRIS – make sure that there is no debris (leaves, trash, branches, etc.) in or around your A/C unit.
  • FILTERS – dirty filters can cause some issues with your A/C running efficiently. Be sure you’re changing your filters once a month.
  • DUCTS – inspect the ducts for tears and cracks.  Use metal foil tape to seal them. 

A/C Won’t Turn On

  • Electricity: An A/C that refuses to blow cold air -or any air, can be a nightmare in the summer.  After turning the system on, if you don’t feel air or hear the machine running, you could just be lacking power.  Check for a tripped circuit breaker or blown fuse. If those aren’t the culprit, inspect your thermostat to make sure it’s working properly. Some new smart thermostats can disconnect from WiFi or Bluetooth, causing the system to stop working. Older thermostats can require calibration tweaks frequently. Should you still not hear or feel anything after these quick checks, you could have a more serious issue involving wires. Leave this to the Electricians and HVAC professionals that are trained to work with voltage and wiring.  Your safety is more important than fixing the issue yourself.
  • Clogged Drain Line:  From small amounts of standing water to damage caused by leaking water, your A/C could be the problem. When your A/C is running, it’s pulling moisture from the air. While that is collecting and cooling, it’s dripping into a pan. It then travels down a drain line. When that drain line is clogged, you’ll notice a buildup of water, and problems with your system running properly or not turning on at all.  To clean, locate the drain. It’s a PVC pipe attached to a wall, near the compressor. Remove the plug and pour in ¼ cup of distilled vinegar. That’s it! Changing your filters will keep these drain lines clean, so that moisture can move freely through them. You can also routinely clean with vinegar monthly to prevent this from occurring again.

Air is Not Cooling

  •  Refrigerants:  Refrigerants (or Freon) are what make air conditioners blow cold air. Inside the copper coils are refrigerants. The refrigerants absorb heat from indoor air and turn the air from a low-pressure gas to a high-pressure liquid. Refrigerants are then sent outside so a fan can blow hot air over the coils, sending it out of the system via exhaust. Then, the refrigerant cools down and becomes a low-pressure gas again. A fan blows that cool air back over the coils and into your home. This cycle keeps repeating, but without refrigerant, you won’t get cool air. Freon isn’t like motor oil, where it’s used and replaced.  You’ll only need more refrigerant when there are leaks. And when there are leaks, you’ll need an HVAC expert to step in.
  • Condenser Coils: Those coils that the hot air blows over are critical to your A/C system. During your air conditioner troubleshooting, you’ll want to check out the condenser coils.  If those coils aren’t clean, you could be looking at an efficiency issue. And since these coils are in the unit outside of your home, it’s not difficult for them to get dirty.  The machine will be working overtime to get that warm air dispersed outside, but when it has to compete with debris, dirt and grime, the consequences are less cool air coming back into your home.  You can clean them with warm, soapy water, or purchase products like Nu-Calgon Nu-Bright Condenser Coil Cleaner for quick and simple DIY cleanup.

A/C is Blowing Warm Air

  • Frozen Coils: Condenser coils aren’t the only type of coil your A/C system uses to cool.  Evaporator coils also hold that refrigerant that absorbs and moves the hot air. If you’re feeling warm air blowing from your system, that could mean that there is ice on your evaporator coil. So, what causes the ice to form? Restricted airflow! Dirty filters, low refrigerant due to leaks, or poor or broken ductwork are a few things that will restrict airflow. If your evaporator coil is frozen, turn off your A/C. You can give it time to thaw, but this could naturally take up to 24 hours. If it’s a slight freeze with moderate frost, leave your unit on and turn it to “fan only.” You can speed up the process with a hair dryer, but be careful not to overheat any of the components in the system.
  • Leaky Ducts: The air from your A/C flows through your home via ducts through your walls and ceilings. Over time, it’s not uncommon for ducts to tear or rip, causing them to leak.  Since these ducts carry the return air that goes to your system for cooling, you can understand why a leak would be a big deal. The cool air can escape into the walls… leaving you warmer than you want to be. It will also cost you more money because the system is still creating that cool air – you’re just not feeling it.  This is a more advanced DIY fix, so you’ll definitely want to contact an HVAC expert to repair them if you aren’t well-versed in household repairs.

Air conditioner troubleshooting is as easy as identifying the issue, and deciding whether it’s a DIY job or hefty enough for a professional.  In Texas, we need to take special care of our air conditioners. The next time you find a problem, try to troubleshoot and solve it yourself, but always be prepared to call on an HVAC expert, should the need arise.