There are few things more frustrating than dealing with a broken-down air conditioning unit in the middle of the summer. Scheduling annual inspections maintenance visits can help, but it won’t prevent every potential issue.
Most air conditioning problems need to be resolved by professional HVAC contractors. Unfortunately, these issues often arise during the summer, when HVAC companies are extremely busy and may not be able to respond immediately. If that’s the case, homeowners may want to try fixing the ten common air conditioning problems described below themselves while they wait for their repair contractors to arrive.
1. The AC Unit Won’t Turn On
If an AC unit works perfectly one day then refuses to turn on the next, chances are, the problem is relatively minor. Try replacing the batteries in the thermostat and checking its settings to make sure it’s in cooling mode.
If the thermostat has batteries and turns on but the AC unit still isn’t working, check the circuit breaker and reset it as needed. If that doesn’t work, call for professional air-conditioning repair.
2. No Cold Air Flowing
The most common culprit behind AC units that won’t blow out cold air is a dirty filter. When the air filter gets dirty, it will block the airflow to the ducts. The lack of airflow can also cause the condenser unit to freeze up, limiting the cooling power of the unit even further.
Experts recommend changing air filters at least once a month for a reason. Check the filter even if it’s only been a few weeks. If it’s dirty, replace it with a new one to see if that helps with the insufficient cold air. Otherwise, it’s time to call a professional to evaluate the blower belt and the refrigerant levels.
3. Refrigerant or Water Leaks
It’s normal for a small amount of condensation to build up on the outside of an air conditioner, but excessive moisture and pooling liquid are always problems. Refrigerant is usually brightly colored and it typically leaks from coolant lines, while water drips from drainage pipes or condensate pumps.
Homeowners can check their drainage pipes for blockages if they notice water leaks, but if there’s a refrigerant leak, turn the unit off until a qualified repair tech can address it. Running an air conditioner without enough refrigerant can damage the compressor, which is one of the most costly parts in a modern AC unit.
4. Short Cycling
Short cycling occurs when air conditioners can’t complete full cooling cycles, instead starting up and stopping repeatedly. If the problem is new, the first things to check are the air filter and the thermostat. Change the filter if it’s dirty and make sure the thermostat is not miscalibrated.
If the air conditioning unit is brand-new, there may be a more serious underlying problem. Namely, the unit may be too large for the space it is intended to cool. The best solution is to return it and purchase a properly sized air conditioner.
5. Frozen Condenser Coil
If there’s ice forming around the condenser coil, that means the AC system is working too hard. The most common culprits are dirty air filters, condenser units, blower fans, and ducts. Homeowners may want to check all of the easily accessible parts of their system that could be affected for blockages before calling an AC tech.
6. Frequently Tripped Circuit Breakers
It’s fine to reset a tripped circuit breaker once in a while, but if the AC unit is tripping the breaker every time it comes on, there’s something wrong. Most likely, the wiring or the circuit breaker is not rated for the unit’s output. Unless homeowners have professional experience as electricians, they should leave resolving this problem to trained professionals.
7. Unusual Odors
One of the most concerning odors that can come from an air conditioning system is a burning smell. It could be coming from overheating components, wiring issues, or clogged air filters. No matter where this unusual odor is coming from, though, the only safe solution is to turn the unit off and call for professional help.
While burning smells necessitate turning the unit off immediately, unusual, musty odors indicate something different. They tell homeowners that there’s mildew growing somewhere in the system, usually as a result of improper drainage or dirty air ducts. Having the ducts cleaned and the whole system inspected once a year is a great way to avoid the moisture buildup that leads to mildew.
8. New Sounds
Most air conditioners aren’t completely silent, but residents learn to recognize what sounds are normal for their units. If anyone notices a new sound that hasn’t been heard before, that should be considered a red flag. Squealing and grinding noises are never normal.
More often than not, squealing noises are a result of a worn-out or misaligned belt. Some homeowners can check the blower belts themselves, but only if they have experience working in the HVAC industry. Grinding sounds often signal issues with the unit’s motor bearings and should always be checked by a professional as soon as possible.
9. Hot Air Coming From Registers
While most homes have combined HVAC systems that feature both heaters and air conditioners, these systems should not be blowing out hot air in the middle of summer. First, check the thermostat to make sure it’s set properly. If it is, that hot air may be a result of debris or low refrigerant levels causing the compressor to overheat.
10. Outdoor Unit Leaking Water
It’s normal for an outdoor AC unit to leak some water on a hot or humid day or when the temperatures drop below 60 degrees. Excessive water leaking from the outdoor unit can also indicate problems like low coolant levels, dirty filters, damaged condensate pans, blocked drainage pipes, or even improper installation.
HVAC Contractors Can Always Help
The ten issues above are only a few of the problems that can occur with modern air conditioning units. Some of them can be resolved by handy homeowners with a few tools while others require the help of a professional. No matter what’s wrong with an air conditioner, a professional HVAC repair contractor should be able to get to the bottom of it and suggest appropriate repairs.
Blake Brumfield is the owner of AC TEX, LLC Air Conditioning and Heating. He is a graduate of Lindsey-Cooper Refrigeration School and has over 6 years of working experience out in the field. Blake holds a Universal EPA License, Certified Technician License, and a HVAC Contractor License. In addition to his love of the outdoors, Blake spends most of his free time continuing to study and learn about today’s modern HVAC systems.