10 Common Air Conditioner Problems and How to Fix Them

Experiencing problems with your air conditioner in the middle of a Midwest summer can make for some very hot days and long sleepless nights. While regular AC maintenance will ward off many types of air conditioning repair, an occasional emergency can arise with your air conditioning system.

When your indoor temperature starts creeping up and your air conditioner is giving you trouble, it can be difficult to identify the source of what may require AC repair. Let’s take a look at 10 common air conditioner problems to see if we can fix it right here, right now!

Clean or Replace Your A/C Filter

A dirty filter will impair airflow and some cases of severe clogging, will cause your air conditioner to freeze. Instead of calling for AC service, follow the manufacturer’s recommended timeline for filter cleaning or filter replacement. Replacement instructions vary from month-to-month to every three months and may even include cleaning re-usable filters. If you suspect a dirty filter, check your local hardware store for a replacement. All you need are your filter dimensions, which should be noted on your existing air conditioner filter.

If your air conditioner isn’t cooling or is blowing hot air, check the filter first. Often an easy fix, the hard part of do-it-yourself filter maintenance is remembering to do it. Many air conditioning companies offer seasonal tune-ups, which include air filter cleaning and airflow measurement.

Check Your Thermostat Settings

If your air conditioner will not kick on, you may be able to avoid a visit from your AC contractor by checking the thermostat. Not that you don’t love your AC contractor. You just may prefer to avoid a cost associated with an AC service visit.

Perhaps the thermostat for your air conditioner accidentally kicked off or turned to an incorrect setting. It neither of those happened, check the cleanliness of the thermostat interior, make sure you don’t have sunlight interference and confirm that the thermostat itself is level.

If you find you have a continual tug of war with the setting of your thermostat and the actual temperature, it could be a calibration issue. Recalibrate your thermostat and if you find you need to recalibrate often, look into a digital thermostat for heightened accuracy.

Refrigerant Levels and Leaks

Please allow me to make a polite disclaimer for the sanity of those of us who are not completely air conditioner literate. The following three words in this section will be used interchangeably: refrigerant, coolant and Freon. Now, here we go…

If indoor air temperature is fluctuating or not cooling properly, your air conditioner may be low on refrigerant. As a rule, your air conditioner will not use up refrigerant and therefore coolant levels should remain consistent. Being low on Freon means that your ac system has a leak.

“Recharging Your Air Conditioner,” which is the equivalent of adding Freon, needs to be done by a HVAC contractor. It is important to identify the location of the leak to avoid causing harm to the environment and repetitive AC repair.

Air conditioning repair for a refrigerant leak will be based on where it is located. Talk to your air conditioning contractor about annual AC service that examines your unit for leaks.

Blockages Can Affect Drainage

If your AC unit is leaking, it could mean a pipe is blocked or the condensate pump has stopped working.  Leaves, lint, dirt and dust can build up and cause your air conditioner problems. If the drain pan overfills, it can cause damage to your air conditioner and the items near it. It is a good idea to check your drain pan periodically.

To sidestep professional air conditioning repair, check your pipes for leaks and use a bleach solution on accumulated algae. If those steps plus clearing the condensation drainpipe or replacing the pump don’t solve the problem, you many need to call for AC repair services.

Electrical and Wiring Issues

If air isn’t coming out at all, the fan on the outside unit may have stopped. If this is the case, check the breaker box. Restart the tripped switch by moving it to the off position and then back to the on position. If a mere power surge caused the isolated incident, your air conditioner should be back on track.

If your breaker continues to shut down, it could be a problem with the electrical and wiring. An electrical short will cause the breaker to trip when your ac unit tries to start. Electrical and wiring problems can result in damage and fire. When in doubt, be sure to contact an air conditioning service or electrician to diagnose the problem.

Burnt Out Capacitors

Faulty capacitors are also a reason the fans in your air conditioner will fail to engage. Capacitors provide the jolt needed to start the motor of your air conditioner. A clicking sound is often an indicator of a capacitor that is wearing down. If you detect a humming sound, the motor may be attempting to activate. Since capacitors are directly related to the motor, it is best to fix this type of air conditioner situation sooner than later to avoid costly problems with the motor.

A professional best replaces capacitors, as leaking oil can be dangerous to an unskilled enthusiast. Enlisting in regular AC maintenance will keep capacitors in good shape and will help you avoid urgent AC repair.

The Compressor

As one of the most important components of an air conditioning system, the compressor regulates AC pressure and keeps the refrigerant flowing properly. Compressors work hard and will eventually need to be replaced. Additionally, dirty coils, refrigerant levels and capacitors will affect compressor functionality.

If the air your air conditioner is blowing is not as cold as it once was, contact an air conditioning service. Many air conditioner problems related to the compressor are misdiagnosed. Because of the complexity of a compressor, your AC contractor may recommend replacing it instead of performing air conditioning repair.

Evaporator Coils

Often underrated, evaporator coils are valiant heroes of an efficient air conditioning system. Evaporator coils absorb indoor heat and return it as the cold air through in-home air ducts. Frozen coils, air duct obstruction, dirty filters and refrigerant levels will lend problematic to evaporator coils.

Try cleaning coils with a solution of warm water and simple detergent. If this does not help, an AC contractor may be your best bet.

Condenser Coils

Similar to evaporator coils but responsible for releasing heat into the outdoor air, condenser coils are located outside the home. Easily plagued by outdoor elements, condenser coils can be cleaned with a water hose once or twice a year. In the case of a heavy soiling, an air conditioning contractor can use a chemical solution to bring them back to life.

An Exhausted Contactor

A contactor serves as an electrical switch, turning the air conditioner on-and-off to retain the desired temperature. As a top reason for AC repair calls, worn out contactors can cause trouble for the compressor, the blower motor and the condenser fan motor. With a little electrical savvy, a DIY contractor replacement can be successful and cost efficient. If contactor replacement doesn’t fix your air conditioner problems, contact an air conditioning service to take a look at your unit.