No one likes to make an emergency HVAC call during a major heat wave. Discovering that your air conditioning system can't keep up with your home's cooling load is never fun, and it's especially unpleasant when living without an air conditioner means sweating through your shirt. Unfortunately, distinguishing between a minor issue and a true HVAC emergency may not always be easy.
If your air conditioning system isn't keeping you cool, you can take a few steps to troubleshoot the problem before calling your neighborhood HVAC technicians. Follow these three troubleshooting tips to determine if you can solve the problem on your own or need professional help to get your house cool and comfortable again.
1. Check Your Thermostat's Fan Setting
The fan setting on your thermostat can be a bit misleading. Most thermostats offer four fan positions: on, off, auto, and recirculate. When running your air conditioner, always keep your fan setting on "auto." The "auto" setting will run the fan with the compressor and shut the fan off when the compressor turns off. In other words, your house fan won't run without the AC on.
While it may seem like the "on" and "recirculate" settings will keep your home's air from becoming stagnant, they prevent condensation from dripping away from the evaporator. If your fan doesn't turn off, the result will be much more humid and damp air. Since humid air feels subjectively warmer, an improper thermostat setting can leave you feeling like your AC can't keep up.
2. Replace Your Air Handler Filter
All central HVAC systems need a filter to prevent dust and debris from clogging up the evaporator coils. While filters are necessary to keep your system reliable, they can also become a reliability issue when you do not change them often enough. Just as too much air flowing over your evaporator coil can cause problems, too little air can also result in major issues.
When insufficient air moves across the evaporator, the temperature will fall, and condensation will freeze before it can drain. Frozen condensation will eventually prevent the evaporator coil from transferring heat, which can cause your AC system to short cycle or stop working entirely. Before contacting an HVAC technician, always check the condition of your filter and replace it if needed.
3. Investigate Electrical Issues
If your system doesn't turn on at all, you can check your breaker box and reset your AC circuit. In some cases, older or failing compressors may cause infrequent breaker trips. You can continue using your air conditioner if your breaker doesn't trip immediately when your system turns on. However, you should still contact an HVAC professional to investigate the problem when you can.
You will also need to call in a professional if none of these troubleshooting tips resolve your problem. Once you've exhausted these basic steps, diagnosing the underlying problem will likely require significant skill, training, and diagnostic equipment.
Contact an air conditioning repair service near you to learn more.