After essentially being in mothballs for months, your air conditioner may not function on all cylinders the first time you start it up—assuming it starts at all.
If you run into trouble with your air conditioner this summer, you shouldn’t panic. Instead of calling your HVAC contractor immediately, try exercising your own air conditioner troubleshooting skills first. The problem may be something very simple, and if you can solve it yourself why spend money on an unnecessary service call?
Here are eight air conditioner troubleshooting tips that can help you avoid extraneous HVAC repair bills:
1. Check and/or change the air filter.
A clogged and dirty air filter will restrict air flow through an HVAC system, putting excessive strain on heating and cooling equipment. In general, it is a good idea to change your HVAC air filter on a seasonal basis, before you use your furnace or air conditioner for the first time. But don’t use cheap fiberglass air filters. They need to be changed constantly and don’t work well even when they’re new.
2. Check to make sure the thermostat batteries are still working.
If the display doesn’t light up, or looks weak, the batteries should be changed. And while you’re checking the batteries, be sure to look closely to make sure the thermostat switch has been set to cool, you’d be surprised how often people forget that simple step.
3. Look to see if the circuit breaker has been tripped.
When a circuit breaker trips, its often a sign of electrical problems. If it trips again soon after you’ve reset it, contact an electrician right away and explain your trouble.
4. Make sure the air handler switch has been turned on.
Assuming there’s an on/off switch on your air handler, which there often is, you should check it just in case it has been flipped off accidentally off. If someone bumped it, pushed a box against it or bounced a ball off it, (there are dozens of possibilities), it may now be in the off position.
5. Check the disconnect switch on the outdoor condenser unit.
It’s easy to forget the basics, and naturally if everything isn’t switched on the system won’t work. While you’re outside, you should also clean the condenser and the fan, and remove any debris that may have fallen inside or on top of it. A dirty condenser may not work properly, and if there are signs of physical damage you may need to call a repair person after all.
6. Investigate the condensation pump and the AC drain line.
Many air conditioners have safety switches that will trigger if a water leak is suspected. If the pan under the unit is filled with water, empty it and flush out the drain line to eliminate any clogs that might be responsible for the trouble. If this was the problem, clearing the drain line should get the air conditioner going again.
7. Check to see if the safety switch in the pan has been turned off manually.
Again, someone could have bumped or touched this switch accidentally. That may seem unlikely, but mysterious things tend to happen with electric equipment and switches.
8. Look for signs of a refrigerant leak.
With air conditioners, unseen refrigerant leaks are ridiculously common. If you turn the air conditioner on for the first time, and if works perfectly but doesn’t produce cool air, an inadequate supply of refrigerant is likely the problem. In this case you will have to contact your local HVAC company, since only trained technicians are licensed to add refrigerant to an air conditioning system.