How to Prevent Air Conditioning Breakdowns This Summer
In today’s rough economic times the last thing you need is a surprise air conditioning repair. While all mechanical systems require repairs from time to time, many are preventable. In no particular order, here are the ten most common problems we encounter every spring and what you can do to avoid them.
1. Dirty Filter
If you have a 1″ disposable filter, it should be replaced monthly. It’s out of sight and out of mind, so it’s easy to forget to change it. Yet, every year we go on service calls where the air conditioner isn’t cooling and the cause is restricted air flow from an extremely dirty filter. Dirty filters reduce indoor air quality, make the home less comfortable, and can result in frozen indoor coils, eventually leading to serious repairs.
2. Switch Turned Off
Some heating and air conditioning systems have a wall switch at the indoor unit for safety and convenience that can be confused with a light switch. If this is accidentally switched off or left off during mild weather, your air conditioner will not start. Always check the condition of this switch before calling us.
3. Tripped Breaker
One of the most common causes of no-cool calls is a tripped breaker. Reset it before calling us. Hopefully, it won’t repeat. If it does, call us. Something is causing the breaker to trip. Often, it’s something simple, like a bad breaker, loose wire, or a bad capacitor. However, if not addressed, some simple problems could lead to far more expensive repairs.
4. Refrigerant Leaks
An air conditioning system is a sealed system. It should never leak refrigerant. When it does, bad things happen. Your air conditioner efficiency falls and electricity use rises. Your air conditioner may not cool. The coil may freeze. The compressor could become damaged. Plus, refrigerants are greenhouse gases. We use a variety of tools to track down refrigerant leaks. Often the problem is as simple as a bad Schrader valve or a weakened connection between fitting and refrigerant tubing.
Some thermostats must be switched between heating mode and cooling mode. If the switch is in the wrong position or breaks, your air conditioner won’t start. Quality digital thermostats rarely fail. Some of the cheap ones available from the big boxes might. So what goes wrong? The switch might break; a voltage spike might cause a malfunction, and so on.
6. Clogged Drain Line
Air conditioners pull moisture out of humid air while lowering the temperature. The moisture is typically drained out of your home through your plumbing system. A drain pan should be present as a back up with a secondary condensate drain. Algae can grow in these lines, clogging them up. This can lead to water damage in your home. We clear the drain lines as part of our spring air conditioning tune-up or you can have it done separately, as needed.
A contactor is an electromechanical switch in your air conditioner. Sometimes the silver coating on a contactor will wear off and the contactor will stick, causing the outside unit to run continuously, which is expensive. Sometimes ants are attracted to the electricity and get squashed between the contactors, blocking them from closing. When this happens, the outside unit won’t run. Contactors can also fail electrically. We check these as part of a spring tune-up, clean the surface of the contactors if needed, and recommend replacement if failure appears imminent.
8. Dirty Evaporator Coil
The evaporator coil is located inside your home… Periodically the coil needs to be cleaned or dust and dirt build up will restrict the coil’s heat transfer capabilities and reduce system air flow. Dirty coils increase operating cost and reduce the comfort of your home. * Should be done by HVAC Professional
9. Dirty Condenser Coil
The condenser coil is the outside portion of your air conditioning system. A dirty or restricted coil is inefficient, increasing electricity usage and reducing system cooling capacity. Keeping it clean will go along way in reducing energy costs and reducing the wear and tear on your air conditioning system.
10. Duct Leaks
With a forced air heating & cooling system you pay to condition air. The ductwork delivers the air to the different rooms. If the ductwork that supply’s this air is located outside of the area you want conditioned like basement, crawl space or attic has leaks, you are paying to condition a space that you do not want to condition and reduce the amount of air that could be conditioning the rooms you want to condition. This causes longer run times and higher energy bills. Inefficient ductwork (your air distribution system) is a major energy waster in most homes. I will have more on this in future articles.