NYC Metro Area’s HVACR Blog

All, Preventive Maintenance Agreements, Residential HVAC

Air Conditioning Troubleshooting: 9 Common Problems & Solutions


air conditioning troubleshootingBefore you know it, those living in the residential building you manage will be cranking up their air conditioning systems. It goes without saying that you’ll want to start off the warmer weather months in a comfortable zone, which for you and the residents means as complaint-free as possible. A preemptive air conditioning troubleshooting mission and appropriate residential air conditioning maintenance can aid you in your goal of smoothly operating air conditioning systems and happy residents. Let’s take a look at the most common air conditioning problems.

Air conditioning trouble shooting: The usual suspects

When warm weather hits and the heat is on, the last thing you want is for your air conditioning to be off. It’s essential to maintain steady comfort in your building to keep your residents content. Here are some of the most prevalent problems that you can avoid by following common sense operational procedures and with routine residential air conditioning maintenance.

1. The AC won’t turn on
At the top of your list of fears when you initiate your air conditioning troubleshooting review might be that you’ll turn on the system and hear nothing and feel nothing. The lack of power could be something as simple as a blown fuse or a tripped circuit breaker, which means you’ll have to reset the circuit breaker or replace a blown use. It also could be the result of broken or loose wiring or thermostat problems.

Read this related article to learn more: Tips for Troubleshooting AC Electrical Problems

2. Thermostat glitches
If your thermostat is not working or if it is incorrectly calibrated, it may not tell the air conditioner to turn on. If you have set your thermostat to the lowest temperature setting and the system still does not start, it’s probably time to call your HVAC repair technician, who will likely have to recalibrate or replace the thermostat. The older, dial-type thermostats are more often subject to calibration problems, but sometimes the newer programmable thermostats are not easy to program. When doing air conditioning troubleshooting, you should consult your thermostat manual to make sure you have programmed your thermostat properly.

3. Air conditioner problems are not cool – low refrigerant equals low efficiency
While air conditioning troubleshooting uncovers an under-performing unit, that can be the result of low refrigerant. If the refrigerant level is low, it usually means it was either undercharged at installation or it has a leak. If you notice your building is not cooling properly or the air is somewhat sticky, a low refrigerant level could be the culprit. Without the right refrigerant level, heat and humidity cannot efficiently be removed from the air. The refrigerant is the lifeblood of your air conditioning unit and is akin to the motor oil in your vehicle.

Although your AC technician might discover a leak during the air conditioning troubleshooting process, unfortunately it’s not usually a matter of just topping off the refrigerant. When a vehicle frequently needs oil, it’s usually a sign of a bigger problem. Likewise, with an air conditioner system, low refrigerant is often the sign of a leak and you will need a qualified HVAC experts to fix it. If multiple leaks are detected, it’s possible that you may need to replace the unit.

4. Condenser problems will heat things up
When drawing up an air conditioning troubleshooting plan, don’t forget to look at the condenser coil. The condenser has an important job to do. It is responsible for discharging the heat removed from the air by releasing it outside of the building. The condenser coil is part of your outdoor unit, which means it’s exposed to dirt, soot and assorted pollutants that make it grimy. If the coils are dirty, it will interfere with the transfer of heat and make your unit worker harder and add to the wear and tear on your system.

5. It’s getting hot in here – ironically could mean a frozen evaporator coil
While embarking on your air conditioning troubleshooting mission, you should consider that your evaporator coil is the reason for warmer temperatures than you would like. This coil contains refrigerant that absorbs heat. When airflow is diminished, a layer of ice can form on the evaporator coil. If this occurs, you could end up with warm air or no air from your air conditioner supply registers. The restricted airflow could be the result of dirty air filters, low refrigerant or obstructed return air in your ductwork, which brings us to our next problem to look at when you’re conducting your air conditioning troubleshooting project.

6. Leaking or dirty ducts
If you’re experiencing warmer air than you’d like or if some rooms are cool and some are warm, it could mean an improper flow of air through your ducts. Though a central air conditioning system is seemingly a sealed system with the ductwork running through walls and ceilings, it is not unusual for tears to develop in your ductwork, sometimes as the result of rodents or inattentive workers.

The air ducts carry the return air to your system for treatment and cooling. If there’s a rip in the ducts, the cool air will escape inside your walls, which is not beneficial to your residents’ comfort or wallet. Leaky air ducts can make the entire home warmer, which will make your system work harder and increase your electric bills. So put “duct inspection” on your air conditioning troubleshooting checklist.

Read this related article to learn more: Duct cleaning services: Why, when & how?

7. Drainage difficulties
Where does the moisture removed by your air conditioner go? It is designed to be removed from your space through a drain line into a pan and then is funneled into a drain. If the drain is clogged and the pan overflows, the water will back up and damage your system. The backup can cause water leaks that can damage your building and its contents. You do not want to overlook the drainage lines when exploring air conditioning troubleshooting tactics.

8. Not a fan of a noisy system?
Your system comes complete with a fan that blows indoor air over its evaporator coil to cool the air and a condenser coil fan that blows air over the condenser to transport the heat from the building to outside. A prevalent source of noise is the fan motors, which could be plagued by dirt and debris, worn belts or deteriorating bearings. If noise is detected when completing your air conditioning troubleshooting activities, it’s best to shut off your unit and call in an HVAC professional to avoid further damage.

Related article: Get to the Bottom of Air Conditioning Noise

9. A window of inopportunity
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, one of the top air conditioning problems is improper operation and heading the list under that category is open windows and outside doors. Makes sense doesn’t it? We probably all have memories of parents telling us to shut the windows when the air conditioner was on in our home or car. So one of the easiest and most inexpensive problems to fix on our air conditioning troubleshooting mission is to make sure windows or doors are closed; otherwise you are undermining your air conditioner’s efficiency.

Air conditioning troubleshooting: More helpful hints to avoid problems

  • Clear brush and debris from outside unit and surrounding area
  • Replace dirty filters
  • Check ducts for tears and have them repaired
  • Install a programmable thermostat, which saves energy and is more accurate, but learn how to use it properly

As you can see, there are problems than can be prevented by conducting an air conditioning troubleshooting exercise. If there is one takeaway from a discussion on air conditioning troubleshooting, it should be that proper maintenance is the best was to avoid problems and prevent headaches for you and those who live in your residential complex.

Though air conditioning troubleshooting can be an asset to the smooth operation of your system, the top air conditioning problems can be stopped before they start with a routine maintenance plan.

Learn more from this helpful guide: HVAC Preventive Maintenance Contracts: How to Find The Right One For Your HVAC Infrastructure.

New Call-to-action