5 Common Air Conditioning Problems and Solutions

Not cooling? Running too long? Read about five common air conditioning problems and how to solve them.


As summer starts to move in and hot days hit, your air conditioner wakes up from its winter nap, ready for action. Or at least it should. It seems inevitable that on the hottest days, air conditioning systems get a little wonky. We’re going to look at the most common of those issues, give you some reasons for the problem and some solutions to fix them.


The AC is simply not cooling


First off, is there a noise when your AC starts? Does it sound like it wants to work? If it does, that’s a good sign. Next, check your vents. Have the filters been replaced yet this season? Are they grimy? A simple replacement of filters or an appointment to get a pro to clean the vents may solve that problem.


If you have an AC unit that has parts inside your house and outside your house, make sure you’re checking all of the parts of the unit and they’re all clean and clear as well—no birds nests blocking air flow or dust bunnies hanging out inside vents.


If the vents are clear, check the thermostat next. The problem may be as simple as making sure the fan setting is on AUTO not on ON. Oh, and turned to COOL not HEAT.


If you’ve checked the vents and the thermostat and the unit isn’t cooling, make sure all part have electricity going to them —compressor and condenser— and make sure a breaker hasn’t been tripped.


Still not working? It’s possible you have leak of refrigerant in your unit, which is caused by holes or cracks in the coils that actually circulate the liquid. If the coils seem frozen or there’s a hissing sound coming from your indoor unit, chances are it’s a leak. This fix needs a pro, since coolant can be toxic and needs to be handled carefully.


AC not turning off


What happens if your air conditioner just keeps going and going and going? Well, it will make your power bill climb and climb and climb for sure. Here are a few things to check out:


First check that thermostat. Is it set correctly? Are its batteries fresh enough? Is it set too low? Put it up a few degrees and see if it turns off. If not, it may be time to call a repair person.


Do you have a Fan Limit Switch? If you do, make sure it’s set to AUTO and not MANUAL. If set correctly, the fan should only kick on when the thermostat tells it to.


When’s the last time you checked on the level of refrigerant in the unit? Not enough in the cooling system will keep your air conditioner running as it tries, with no luck, to cool the house and the unit down. A professional can help you check on the level of liquid and tell you if leaky coils are the cause of your constantly running AC.


Are you in an older house? If your answer is yes, your insulation may be worn down or your joints may not be sealed. Call a pro to help with this one, check the areas the need reinforcement and re-seal any joints or vents.


Stinky, dusty, humid air


If the air quality in your home is less than stellar once you turn on your AC, simple steps can help correct it.


Get some air filtering plants like Parlor Palms, Snake Plants, Peace Lilies of Siam Aurora plants can actually clean the air inside. Plus, they add life to your décor.


Check your filters and make sure they’re new and clean. Wipe the areas around the filters to get rid of any buildup of grime and dust.


Open your windows when the air is bearable in the late night or early morning. Even a house with the AC on needs fresh air ever once in a while. If your air is stale, circulating it will just make it more stale.


If you have a family member of the four legged variety, consider summer baths as part of your routine, brushing fur outside with a shedding edge brush and replacing carpet with wood or tile or cork flooring.


Malfunctioning thermostat


Of course, your thermostat is the communication device that links your desires for a certain air temperature and your AC. Make sure you show it some love so it can effectively communicate your needs and support the overall functionality of your cooling system.


Is it in the right place? Make sure your thermostat that it doesn’t get hit by the heat of the sun or by the cool of air ducts. Centralize it in your home—hallways are great places for thermostats.


Freshen the batteries of your thermostat. Easy one.


Replacing the thermostat is another option—relatively low cost and potentially highly effective. An electronic, programable unit runs around $100 and a smart thermometer will cost $160-200. In the long run, these units can cut down on costs if you program them to take advantage of the natural cooling of your house at night or the hours when no one is home and the house can be a bit warmer.



Hot spots and cold spots


If you walk around your house and find pockets that are cold and pockets that are warm, there are some easy ways to pinpoint the problem.


The first question is about insulation. Is yours sufficient? Is your attic truly insulated? Is your duct work insulated? Investing in attic insulation can cut down on monthly heating and cooling bills dramatically. If you’re experiencing uneven temperatures in your house it may be worth it to look to that attic first.


Let’s talk Soffit vents. You can find yours going from the outside in at the low point of your roof. If they’re blocked, there’s no air flow in the attic which will stall the whole air flow cycle in the house. Make sure they’re clean and clear.


Installing ceiling fans to rotate counterclockwise in the summer, faster if it’s really hot. This will keep the air flowing and help pull cooler heavier air up, pushing down warmer air and giving it the opportunity to cool.


In all cases, taking a look and giving a little love to your air conditioner can go far. In many cases, you can fix the small stuff yourself but call a professional to deal with duct work and refrigerant issues. Stay cool out there—it’s going to be a red hot summer.

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