The air conditioner is one of the most important parts of your house. When it’s working well, it creates a comfortable and cool environment. But when it is on the fritz and not working properly, it can be stressful to know if you need an air conditioner repair while your house gets hot, uncomfortable, and potentially unsafe.
Here’s how to diagnose and fix four common air conditioner problems. Knowing how to get started can point you in the direction of an HVAC professional for larger repairs.
Some problems can easily be fixed on your own, but many problems require the skill of an AC repair professional who has experience fixing an air conditioner.
Air Conditioner Blows Hot Air
One of the most common issues for air conditioners is when they appear to be working, but the air they are blowing is hot instead of cold. If this is happening to your unit, start by checking the thermostat to make sure it is set to the cool setting instead of the heat setting. If the thermostat is set to blow hot air, simply switch it to the cool setting and your air conditioner should start blowing cool air.
After checking the thermostat, check your HVAC filters. Dirty air filters can make the air conditioner work harder, which can cause it to overheat and start blowing hot air. To stay on top of any potential issues, change your air filter every ninety days.
Another potential cause for blowing hot air is if the air conditioner has frozen evaporator coils. Evaporator coils pull heat from the existing air in the home and are what start the cooling process.
As they work, evaporator coils naturally collect condensation, which can freeze on the coils. Frozen evaporator coils prevent heat transfer, which can cause the blowing air to be hot instead of cold.
To check your evaporator coils, shut the power off to your air conditioner and open the access door to the interior system components. From there, you should be able to see the evaporator coils. If there is frost or ice on the coils, leave your air conditioner off and give the coils time to thaw for a day before running the unit again.
This may only act as a temporary fix, as frozen evaporator coils can be the sign of a larger problem, including poor airflow, refrigerant leaks, or system damage. To prevent the coils from freezing again, contact an HVAC professional to look at the entire system.
Another possible cause for blowing hot air is low refrigerant. Refrigerant, or coolant, makes it possible for the unit to complete its cooling cycles. If the refrigerant is leaking from the system, the levels could be too low to fully cool the air.
Refrigerant is highly dangerous, so only an HVAC professional should address this issue. If you notice your air conditioner is blowing hot air as well as making hissing or gurgling noises, contact a professional to repair any leaks and add more refrigerant.
Air Conditioner Isn’t Cooling
Another common air conditioner problem is when the unit seems to be on, but it isn’t cooling the house. Start by checking your power source and electrical breaker. If there isn’t proper power to the air conditioner, it won’t blow cool air.
Check the thermostat to make sure the system is on the cool setting and that it is scheduled to be blowing cool air. These simple fixes are often the reasons behind a bigger problem.
If the power and thermostat are set properly, you may have a dirty or clogged air condenser. Check the outside unit and remove any dirt or debris that may be blocking proper air circulation. Inside the house, check to see if the air filters are dirty or if they need to be replaced.
Dirty air filters can make it difficult or impossible for air to push through into the house. If the air filter is dirty, replace it and get in the habit of replacing it regularly.
Other potential causes for an air conditioner running but not cooling include a refrigerant leak or leaky ducts. Both of these systems are closed systems, meaning if your air conditioner doesn’t have enough refrigerant to cool the air, there is a leak in the system somewhere that an HVAC professional needs to diagnose and fix.
Ductwork is the network of vents that moves cool air throughout the house. If you have a leak in the ductwork, the cool air may be escaping through the walls or attic before it reaches its intended destination.
It could also be possible that your air conditioner compressor is damaged or broken. The compressor is located in the outside unit and is responsible for circulating refrigerant and dumping hot air outside.
If the compressor isn’t working properly, the air conditioner can’t complete its cooling cycle and keep air continually moving. If there is an issue with the compressor, it will likely have to be replaced instead of repaired. An HVAC professional can diagnose the issue and replace the part as needed.
Air Conditioner Leaks Water
As your air conditioner runs frequently throughout the summer months, it may start to leak water. If this is happening, don’t waste time getting to the root of the issue. Leaking water can cause water damage and mold throughout the house if it is ignored or not properly fixed.
As an air conditioner cools air through its evaporator coils, condensation naturally occurs. Air conditioner units are designed to move that condensation outside through a drain line. But when there is damage to the system or part of the process is damaged or broken, that natural condensation won’t drain properly, which can cause a water leak.
One of the most common causes of a water leak is a clogged condensation drain line. Over time, the line can get clogged with dirt, dust, and debris, which blocks water from draining out of the house. To diagnose this issue yourself, locate the condensation drain line and look for any blockages.
In some cases, you can use a wet/dry vacuum to remove whatever is blocking the line. However, if the line is difficult to find or is too blocked to do it yourself, you should call an HVAC professional for repairs to an air conditioner.
Water can also leak if the air conditioner drain pan is damaged or broken. The drain pan is located underneath the indoor air handler and catches any condensation. On average, drain pans need to be replaced every 12 to 15 years because of their natural wear and tear over time.
It can also overflow and leak if there is a block in the system. Replacing a rusty or broken drain pan can solve the water issue.
Air Conditioner Freezes Up
It may seem counterintuitive, but a common issue for air conditioner units is freezing up—even in the hot summer weather. The best way to treat a frozen air conditioner is to thaw it and get everything running as normal.
Start by turning your unit off for 12-24 hours to give it time to thaw. Once the ice is gone, you’ll have a better view of what caused the freezing.
One reason for a frozen air conditioner could be poor air flow, especially from a dirty air filter. If the air conditioner can’t get enough air through a clogged filter, more condensation may occur, which can freeze and create ice.
Check to see if your air filter needs to be changed. In some cases, changing the air filter and allowing the ice to thaw is enough to get the air conditioner back into working order.
A lack of airflow could also be due to a damaged blower motor. The blower motor pushes air over the coils, which keeps them at a good temperature. But when the blower motor stops pushing air, the coils can start to freeze. If the blower motor is to blame, you may hear a rattling noise coming from your air conditioner.
Another reason is low levels of refrigerant. When there is a leak in the system, it changes the amount of refrigerant, which impacts the pressure. Low refrigerant pressure causes more condensation, which can eventually freeze and form ice around the air conditioner.
Troubleshooting Common AC Issues
The best way to avoid these common air conditioner issues is with preventative maintenance. Schedule an annual checkup with an HVAC professional to run through your entire air conditioning system. The checkup can alert you to potential issues before they become larger problems, which gives you more time to fix them.
If you do find yourself in need of air conditioning repair, call a trusted professional. Don’t leave the comfort of your home in the hands of just anyone—call a trust AC repair service to get your system blowing the right way.