Common Air Conditioner Issues and How to Fix Them

Even when it’s operating at its best, an air conditioner can pump up your electricity bill by up to 42%. A malfunctioning one may cost even more to run.

The best way to avoid these extra operational costs is to know when something’s wrong with your air conditioner and act fast.

These are the most common air conditioner issues and what you can do about them.

Signs of Air Conditioner Issues

Make sure your air conditioner’s well-maintained and inspect it regularly for signs that something’s amiss. It’s the best way to avoid serious issues developing and end up having to pay for expensive AC repairs.

Here’s how to know something’s amiss with your air conditioner or if there’s trouble on the horizon.

Unusual Noises

Odd sounds emitting from your aircon can mean that the air filters are dirty. When these clog up, your AC has a hard time processing the air, which can lead to strained sounds from the motor.

If the grille’s not fitting properly, the air bypasses it, causing a whistling noise while the fan’s running.

An ill-fitting grille or one that’s the wrong size can also make the aircon work harder than it should. This often causes banging and grinding sounds and can ultimately lead to the fan failing.

If you hear these sounds, switch off the aircon immediately and call a technician.

Water on the Ground Nearby

As your air conditioner heats and cools the air, it sucks moisture from the atmosphere. When it’s seat to heat, you might find water on the ground near the outdoor unit.

Usually, the amount’s so small that it evaporates almost immediately, so pooled water may be a reason for concern. The following issues can all cause excess water to pool outside your unit:

  • Cracks or blockages in the drain line or pan
  • Dirty air filters
  • A dirty coil
  • Compressor or reversing valve issues

It’s best to consult a residential HVAC repair technician to diagnose the problem for you.

Smoke, Steam, or Smells

If you smell a hint of burning rubber of plastic, switch off your air-con unit immediately. These can indicate imminent electrical failure. Steam can mean there’s electrical trouble afoot, so switch off and call a technician immediately.

During winter in frigid climates, it’s normal for steam to rise from your air conditioner during the defrost cycle of the heating phase. While defrosting, frozen condensation melts and evaporates into the air, causing the steam.

What Can Go Wrong?

Even the best-maintained air conditioners malfunction at times.

The good news is that you can fix some of these issues yourself.

One of the most common AC issues is when the appliance won’t switch on. Often, this is due to something uncomplicated like a faulty electrical outlet, or simply that the units are not switched on.

Check for blown fuses and circuit breakers that have tripped if your aircon shares a circuit with other appliances.

Always check for the most obvious cause first before delving any deeper.

These are some of the most common AC issues nowadays:

Blocked Coils and Filters

A dirty filter can cause your air conditioner to blow hot air and ultimately lead to the unit failing.

Avoid this by checking your filters regularly and replacing them at least every three to twelve months.

You don’t have to wait for the trouble to start before you change your aircon’s filter. You can check how dirty it is by holding a clean sheet in front of one of the air conditioner vents. If the sheet turns gray, your filters need replacing.

You’ll find your HVAC filter in one of the following places:

  • Behind a louvered grill nearby
  • Where the return ducts meet the air handler behind a hinged cover
  • Both of these places

To change your filter, simply slide it out of position in the direction of the arrows and slide a new one in.

Thermostat Sensor Issues

Each air conditioner has a thermostat sensor behind the control panel. If this isn’t operating at an optimum, it could cause your air conditioner to stop blowing cool air.

If the sensor’s out of position you’ll need to call a technician to help you re-adjust it. If the thermostat’s off or the sensor’s set to the wrong temperature, you’ll need to adjust that on your controller.

Excess Ice

When ice forms inside your unit, the air conditioner may underperform. Ice build-up usually results from a damaged fan blower belt.

If you notice any ice on or behind the air filter, ask a technician to investigate the issue and replace your fan blower belt if necessary.

Incorrect Settings

Your air conditioner’s efficiency starts with your HVAC system controller. Choosing the correct temperature setting is the first step towards optimum heating and cooling.

If your unit’s blowing out hot air in the middle of summer, check that your setting is on ‘cooling’. This function’s usually represented by a snowflake icon.

Next, check that the temperature setting’s low enough for the unit to sense it should switch to blowing cool air. You can test if it’s working properly by setting the temperature very low to see if the unit responds.

You can apply the same principles when your air conditioner isn’t warming your room sufficiently. The heating setting usually has a sun icon.

If these tactics don’t work, check the manual that came with your aircon. There may be other settings that affect the performance of your air conditioner.

Worn Compressor Controls

The fan and compressor controls can wear out eventually if you switch your unit on and off a lot. A faulty capacitator can also cause your compressor to stop working.

Your aircon can’t operate without a fully functional compressor, so call a technician as soon as you can to find and replace the faulty item.

Stay Cool  

Detecting air conditioner issues early is only one way to ensure your home’s running as efficiently as it should.

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