Troubleshooting Your Own AC Unit

In the dead of summer, there are few more urgent problems than a faulty air conditioning unit. All it takes is a few hours in the hot afternoon sun for your home to heat up to uncomfortable levels when the air conditioning isn’t working properly, so time is of the essence. Of course, calling out a technician can equate to days of waiting and, in some cases, unnecessary charges. Before calling a professional to have a look at your under (or non) performing air conditioner, look for these common problems that you can often fix yourself.

The spot to immediately look if your house is getting hotter than it should be is the thermostat. If it has been bumped the wrong way or played with by someone who doesn’t know how it works, you’ll notice right away. Make sure the power switch is set to “Cool,” and that the target temperature level is set where you want it.

If the thermostat situation checks out, find your air filter (usually located in the duct system near your furnaces) and make sure it isn’t clogged. This is one of those common issues that is very easy to stay on top of, but is often overlooked or forgotten about in the busy homeowner’s day-to-day activities. Replacement air filters of all common sizes can be found in most home improvement stores at a relatively low price.

Assuming the air filter and thermostat are both in proper working order, the last indoor air conditioning issue that homeowners can easily fix themselves is the electrical system. Open up your circuit breaker, find the switch for the AC unit, and see if it has been thrown. If not, there is often another breaker on the outside of your home that can be examined.

Troubleshooting the Outdoor Condenser

Generally speaking, fixing problems with the outdoor condenser should be left to a professional HVAC technician. But there are some circumstances in which homeowners might be able to improve their air conditioner’s performance on their own.

One common problem that occurs with outdoor units is the accumulation of debris. Leaves, grass clippings, and dirt can collect to form a clog in your condenser’s fan or blower. To check if this is occurring in your AC system, unscrew or lift the grate, usually on the top side of the condenser, and clean the fan or air duct with a heavy duty brush. Also, make sure that there aren’t any vines, weeds, or other obstructions growing around the unit to avoid future problems.

The other easily identifiable issue with outdoor central air units is a leak. Though you probably won’t be able to fix it yourself, you can easily identify a leak by looking for puddles around the hoses within the unit. If you spot one, it’s definitely time to call an HVAC technician.

The air conditioner in your home is a complex system with a multitude of parts that can malfunction. But many times, easily fixable issues like those above are the only culprit for your central air woes. So, before immediately deferring to a technician when your AC under performs or stops working, check the basic characteristics of your system to find if it’s an issue you can tackle without professional assistance.

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