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Common Air Conditioner Problems
Air conditioners can fail at any time without warning. If you live in an area that sees high temperatures during the summer months, you know already that outages such as these can result in significant discomfort within a matter of minutes. Sometimes waiting for the pros to come repair your machine simply isn’t practical. Thankfully there are some simple ways to identify common air conditioner problem on your own if you want to attempt your own repair or give that technician a head start.
Most air conditioner problems are of the “failure” variety, meaning the home or office is no longer being cooled adequately. Even before you reach this level of crisis, however, a number of lesser issues may arise that require attention. From excess noise to unwanted precipitation, countless things can go wrong with such a power-hungry and complex machine.
One of the most common complaints is that the air conditioner makes a wailing noise. Left unchecked, such sound pollution can quickly grow deafening when the unit is operating at full capacity. Thankfully it is easy to solve the problem. loud noises such as these are generally caused by the fan belt, which can become dislodged over time. Put it back and check the bearings in the motor, as they may need lubrication or replacement.
A second non-emergency issue that often arises is frozen coils. Frozen coils and ice can block the operation of the unit, creating something like a bottleneck when there should be a circulating combination of Freon and air. Heat pumps often contain collateral heating elements to reduce this problem, but sometimes the unit doesn’t cycle quickly or effectively enough. Often a calibration check can eliminate this problem altogether.
Air conditioner units may also leak water inside your house, creating the conditions for significant water damage, mold and mildew. If your unit no longer drains away condensation effectively, the issue could lie in a rusted out condensation pan. Check here first, then move down to the drain itself to ensure no blockages are keeping all that water from finding its way to an appropriate location.
If the air conditioner simply isn’t cooling, more advanced diagnostic tools must be applied. It’s important to identify the problem as specifically as you can: is the fan or compressor running without the other? Does the unit work sometimes, but not always? Does it overcool or not cool enough? Questions such as these can help you zero in quickly on the source of the problem, so be sure to take a second to observe operation before you cut power to the unit.
Generally the problems can be identified from such details. If, for instance, the unit shuts off before the room is a comfortable temperature, it may not be cycling enough air through the thermostat to take a representative sample. This could be due to poor calibration or a blocked input valve and again, only trial and error will tell for sure. Check for both by adjusting the thermostat or moving it to another location.
Probably the most common cause of air conditioner failure is blocked grills. Simple disassembly (without power) will give you ready access to the fins, fan, motor and other parts that may be operating at less than peak efficiency. Wipe these down carefully, using caution not to get moving electrical parts wet. Be careful when removing the top grill, as it may be wired to the fan. Replace everything and try again, ensuring the thermostat is set well below the ambient temperature that day.
Other problems can be harder to spot, but they may hold the answer if the above measures don’t work. A Freon leak can render the machine weak or utterly ineffectual, especially if recharging the gas supply doesn’t solve the problem. The thermostat itself could be broken as well, which usually means it has to be replaced. Finally, the A/C unit may be short-circuited to the ground, causing circuit breakers to fail every time the machine is operated. Problems such as these will usually require the intercession of an HVAC professional. Be sure to provide a detailed description of the problem and get a series of estimates first if you want to minimize the time, inconvenience and money required.