Troubleshooting air conditioning units is a job for professionals, but there are some common problems that every homeowner can try to solve on their own. Depending on your personal abilities, there are a number of tests that can save you significant costs and help you avoid unnecessary expenses. It is a matter of time before you make that house into your home by getting to know your air conditioning unit personally. No one expects you to know what the trained and certified technicians know, but for that handy mechanically minded homeowner, you will be surprised how many problems you can solve.
If your air conditioner stays running all day and doesn’t feel like there is enough air coming out of the vent, you may be able to solve the problem. Every central air unit operates on the same basic principles. While their locations can vary from home to home, you can find the units in either the garage, a closet, or a special compartment of the house. If you have difficulty finding the main unit, you can start outside of the house and find the refrigeration unit. Another option for locating the unit is to shut off all televisions in the house as well as any other noise sources. After everything is quiet, listen for the sound of the blower assembly and track it down. The sound you hear should be the blower on the central air system. If you did have to go outside, once you find the external refrigerant system you can follow the lines from it through the house until you come upon the central air system.
Once you have located the central air unit you are going to look for two obvious problems. The blower assembly of the central air unit is encased inside of a sheet metal housing to protect it and you from getting damaged or hurt. The enclosed unit must be able to draw air through a vent of some kind that may have become blocked. Sometimes people will not know how they operate, and lean items against the vent not knowing it would affect the air conditioner. To increase air flow, just remove the item(s).
The second possibility is that the air filter needs to be changed. The air filters of air handlers are often overlooked for maintenance as they are out of sight and out of mind. To see if the filter needs replaced, simply pull it out and see if the air pressure coming out of the vents inside the house improves upon removal. It is important to make sure you replace the filter and do not leave it out of the a/c unit or dirt will get cycled through the unit and cause worse damage. Even if the area is clean, moist air will have a clear path to go through the system without the filter rendering the a/c unit ineffective. Air conditioning works by removing moisture from the air.
The less moisture, the cooler the air. A third option for reduced air flow may be a little more difficult to locate. If you notice that your a/c blows very well in one room and is weak in another, you are going to need to check the air distribution from the a/c handler to the vent. If the ducts run through the attic and one of them was crushed it will explain the poor air flow. Typically the ducts are not difficult to straighten out, and the air flow should be restored. The most difficult challenge is to get to the duct to fix it.
Problem: My thermostat does not power on.
Thermostats work off of electricity and are subject to the same issues as a refrigerator, a stove, or a light bulb. If you have a problem with the thermostat not powering on, then it may be time to check your circuit board. Hopefully, when the panel was installed all of the circuits were labeled. If the circuits were not, look down the panel circuit breakers for the breaker that is not going in the same direction as the others. If they are or are not labeled and you cannot see that it is tripped, flip the switch anyway to see if the thermostat will kick on.
If this does not work, there are many things that will cause the thermostat to not power on, but only one that you can check yourself. Some thermostats have a battery power supply for the display, and it may need to be replaced. You will need to carefully remove the face of the thermostat and see if there is indeed a battery. If there is, simply replace the battery. If neither of these efforts fix the issue, you may need to try resetting the thermostat if it has a reset button, otherwise, calling a technician may be your only option.
Problem: The external unit is not powering on.
When the air blowing out of the vents is hot, there is a possibility you will catch a break. As the weather gets hot and the a/c unit works harder the external unit absorbs a heavy load of work. If the external unit overloads the circuit and kicks off there are only two things that you can attempt without outside help unless you have very strong electrical skill sets. Even with good electrical skills you may have an actual a/c problem that can only be fixed by a licensed professional.
The first check is again in the electrical circuit panel that is most often located in the garage in newer homes. Go through the same steps you went through to see if the thermostat circuit breaker is tripped. If so, flip the switch. The second effort is similar to the first one. Instead of looking into the panel in the house, walk outside to the air conditioning unit. Look at the side of the house around the unit for a black box with wires going into it. There may not be a black box; there are variations to the types of circuits from house to house, but there should be some sort of power supply from the house to the cooling unit. Once you have found the box, try to identify the breaker.
If you look closely at the breaker, the traditional breakers of the modern era have a massive fuse encased in a plastic insulated handle. If you pull the handle and reset the box, the unit may just kick on for you. Outside of this step, there are a number of switches internally to the system that will tell the unit to turn off. On very rare occasions the fan will get hung up by some debris and not allow the unit to kick on, if that is the case you can remove the breaker, turn off all power, and try to remove the debris from the unit.
Once the debris is gone, power the unit back on and see if it kicks on. You may have to spin the fan blades before you power it on to make sure the blades did not lockup due to blockage. Very often a quick spin will be enough to get it going. Caution: the fan can kick on without notice so you must ensure you have powered the unit completely down before trying to get the blade spinning
Fixing problems with an air conditioner can be very challenging and very dangerous. There is no substitute for regular maintenance such as changing your air filter and keeping the units clear of debris. In some homes the filter will be inside the house at the vent where the air blows into the room. Air conditioners work best when all rooms to the house have the doors open, and the air can circulate freely. Having closed doors makes a unit work harder and can cause one room to be warmer or cooler than another.
Sometimes it is the simple problems that a homeowner causes themselves that cause the most grief. There isn’t enough explanations for operations and proper use to homeowners when they buy a home. Before you try to fix anything make sure you have a firm grasp of what you are doing and make safety a top priority. If you have any doubts, call a technician and do not take the risk. There are many highly qualified technicians out there including the experts over at Facemyer AC who will be more than happy to help with any problems you might have.
The writer, Ray Donato, is a do-it-yourself home repair enthusiast who always tries to fix any problems he might have before calling in an expert – for better or for worse. If you wish to learn more about Ray you can visit on Google+.