You rely on your air conditioner to keep your home from feeling overly stuffy and sweaty in the summer. When it's working well, it does this job properly. But as with any home appliance, you may sometimes have trouble with your air conditioner. Here are five common problems with air conditioners and what you (or your AC contractor) can do to solve each one.
1. A Clogged Filter
If your air conditioner starts acting up in any way, you should first check the filter. A clogged filter -- one that is filled with dirt and debris -- can cause the system to short-cycle, fail to turn on, or even blow out warm air. All you need to do is replace the filter with another one from the hardware store. Air filters only cost a few dollars a piece, and while there are high-end ones that will catch tiny debris like viruses, a standard pleated cotton filter is good enough for most people.
2. A Dysfunctional Thermostat Connection
If the air conditioner keeps running even though the home is below the thermostat-selected temperature, the connection between the thermostat and the air conditioner might be faulty. A wire could be loose, or there could be a short somewhere in the electrical connection. These issues are generally pretty easy for an HVAC contractor to fix. At worst, they may have to replace the thermostat and the wiring that runs behind the walls. At best, they might have to tighten a wire.
3. Refrigerant Leaks
A coolant chemical, usually R-401A in the case of modern air conditioners, circulates through a coil and absorbs warmth from the air, cooling it. If this coolant or refrigerant starts leaking out of the air conditioner, it can cause it to lose its cooling capacity. The air may feel only slightly cool as it blows out of the AC vents. Refrigerant leaks can be tough to fix. Your contractor has to locate the leak, seal it, and then add new refrigerant to the system. If your air conditioner is more than a few years old, you might be better off replacing it.
4. Clogged Drains
If you ever come home and find a big puddle of water on the ground around the air conditioner, a clogged condensate drain is probably to blame. The condensate drain is meant to ferret water away from the air conditioner, but it's a pretty thin tube and can become clogged quite easily. Water then has nowhere else to go but onto the floor. You can unclog the drain tube yourself with a pipe cleaner. If the blockage is too far up the tube for you to reach, you or your HVAC contractor can just buy a new length of replacement tubing. The tubing should only cost a few dollars.
5. Faulty Electrical Connections
Does your air conditioner keep tripping the circuit breaker? If this happens once or twice, it could be due to a surge in the power supply. If it happens more than that, however, it's because the electrical connection between your air conditioner and the power source is damaged. Your HVAC contractor or electrician might need to come and rewire the air conditioner. If the electrical connections inside the AC unit are faulty, you might want to replace the unit itself. (Electrical problems are common with older AC units and are usually one in a long line of problems that pop up.)
Is your air conditioner experiencing any of the issues above? Have your HVAC contractor come and look the system over sooner rather than later to avoid further air conditioning repairs. Most issues are easy to deal with when they are small and new.