There are many reasons why an air conditioner may not function properly, or produce acceptable results, and expensive repairs aren’t always required to get them back up and running. In fact, taking the initiative to do a little troubleshooting on your own may be enough to solve the problem.
Reasons Why Air Conditioners Cannot Cool Effectively
Some of the possible causes of inadequate air conditioning performance include:
- Low refrigerant. Leaks can develop that will slowly drain the refrigerant away, until only warm air emerges from the registers.
- Condenser shut downs. Aging or overworked outdoor condensers can sometimes become overheated, causing them to perform poorly or not perform at all. When this happens heat can no longer be transferred out of your home.
- Clogged HVAC air filters. If you don’t change your air filters regularly, they can get extremely dirty and restrict smooth air flow through the ducts. This can hinder the efficient operation of an air conditioner.
- Bad thermostat action. Perhaps the setting hasn’t been changed from ‘heat’ to ‘cool’ (its easy to forget to make the change). Wiring or battery problems can also cause spotty performance, preventing the air conditioner from responding appropriately to the temperature settings.
- Electrical problems. Frayed, cut, or dislodged wires can cause shutdowns, or random stops and starts of HVAC equipment.
- Debris or obstacles around the outdoor condenser unit. A lack of free and unrestricted air flow can prevent the condenser from working normally (if it works at all).
- Leaking ductwork. Cracks, crevices, holes, and dislocations in the ductwork can cause significant leakage, meaning a costly loss of cooled air.
- Heat gain from windows. South-facing windows may allow prodigious quantities of unwanted sunlight (and heat) to enter the home during the daylight hours.
- Poor insulation. If insulation is inadequate, damaged, or dislodged, it will not keep cool air in as efficiently as possible.
Troubleshooting Remedies for Air Conditioning Problems
1. If your home simply isn’t getting cooler despite the best efforts of your air conditioner, here’s what you can do:
2. Check the thermostat closely, to make sure it is on the proper setting. If you can’t remember the last time you changed the thermostat batteries, it probably means a change is overdue.
3. Inspect the outdoor condenser unit (and the area around it) for signs of dirtiness, damage, or cluttering. With the power to the unit shut off, you should clean it inside and out with soap and water and remove any debris inside or on top of the unit. Also, make sure there are no objects or plants within two feet of the condenser unit on each side, since this will restrict air flow.
4. Check the HVAC air filter. If it is noticeably dirty, or hasn’t been changed since you started using the air conditioner, change it immediately, preferably with a pleated filter. Pleated filters are more expensive than fiberglass, but they will perform much better and need changing less often.
5. Check your insulation closely, or have someone who specializes in this field do it for you. If there are noticeable gaps, or holes, or open spots, you can either purchase roll and batt insulation and install it yourself, or bring in the professionals to add spray foam insulation, which will do an outstanding job of filling in around objects and existing insulation.
6. If you see any signs of frayed or damaged wiring, contact an electrician and ask them to come to your home to take a look. And even if you don’t see obvious signs of damage, an occasional inspection of your electrical system will give you peace of mind.
7. If heat gain through windows is a problem, install blinds, blackout curtains, awnings, or low-e film that blocks UV radiation.
When in Doubt, Bring in ABE Heating and Cooling
If you can’t figure out what’s wrong with your air conditioner, or if you trace the problem to something that is beyond your ability to manage, please call us at ABE to ask for our expert assistance. Our trained and certified technicians can diagnose any problem and fix it, or suggest the best solution if the trouble doesn’t directly involve the performance of your HVAC system.