When it’s the dog days of summer and you realize your HVAC is not cooling your store, it’s kind of an emergency! Every minute you go without effective air conditioning is like money draining out of your bank account. Or, more accurately, money never making it into your bank account because your customers are shopping elsewhere.
When your HVAC is not cooling properly, you’re probably tempted to jump on the phone to an HVAC service provider. And you probably should, especially if you notice the HVAC running but not cooling at all, or the HVAC blowing but not cooling very much. There are quite a few equipment-related causes for an HVAC not cooling enough. However, since you’re reading this, you probably realize that there are other causes that you might be able to take care of yourself even before help arrives.
Before you make that phone call (or at least while you wait for a technician to get to you), check out these common causes of an HVAC system not cooling.
Top 4 causes of HVAC not cooling that you can fix yourself
1. Blocked AC registers
This is a surprisingly common cause of HVAC not cooling offices, but it happens in stores as well. Do you have employees who are dueling over control of the thermostat? Or complaining to you about the AC blowing on them? People who are too cold sometimes take matters into their own hands and intentionally block the AC registers. If your HVAC is not cooling, check to make sure all your registers are open and not blocked by store fixtures or boxes.
2. Clogged filters
When is the last time you changed your HVAC air filter(s)? If the answer is “a couple of years ago” or even “what is an HVAC air filter?” then take care of that without delay!
Here’s a related post to show you how: Why and How to Change an AC Filter
3. Crowded condenser unit
If you have a split AC system with a condenser unit outside or in a mechanical room, make sure that unit has adequate airflow around it. If it has become buried in trash or leaves, or it has boxes piled all around it, the condenser can’t do its job of releasing heat. That puts a strain on the system
4. Added heat
This is an issue you might be able to address, at least partially. If you’ve got a west or south facing space with a lot of windows, that adds a lot of heat in the afternoons. Or, if you’re having a big sale and suddenly your store is crowded all day, that also adds a great deal of heat. It’s possible that your HVAC is not cooling because the system was not properly designed to handle those additional cooling requirements.
If sun is a problem, try designing your window displays to block some of the sun. If extra occupancy in your store is your problem (which is a good thing!) you may need some HVAC design work or supplemental equipment to provide additional cooling.
Top 4 equipment-related causes of HVAC not cooling
If none of the above seems to be the cause of your HVAC not cooling your store, you’ll need help from the professionals. Here’s what they might find:
1. Clogged or leaking ducts. If your air ducts are clogged with dust, debris, and worse (we’ve seen insect and animal nests in there!), all your expensive cooled air is not making it into your store. The same is true if your ducts have tears and holes.
2. Dirty coils. Your HVAC system has coils that do important jobs: absorb heat from your space and release it outside. If those coils get covered with grime (which they do over time, especially in NYC) they can’t do their job properly. The result is your HVAC not cooling your store well enough.
3. Refrigerant leaks. Refrigerant is the chemical that flows through your HVAC system and is responsible for the cooling. Over time, sometimes the coils, tubing or connectors can develop leaks (especially when the coils are dirty!). It’s called “refrigerant charge” and when it’s low, your HVAC can’t cool as well. If you notice the compressor running constantly and blowing without much cooling, this might be the problem.
Incidentally, don’t let anyone convince you that refilling the refrigerant without fixing the leak is a good idea! You’ll just have the same problem again and have to pay for another repair.
4. Fan problems. Your HVAC system has fans that blow air over the coils and through your ducts. If a fan motor is broken or is running too slowly, you’ll notice your HVAC not cooling.
Once you get past this crisis, there’s an important takeaway. What do these top 4 causes of HVAC not cooling have in common? They are all preventable with regular HVAC maintenance. If you want to avoid emergency breakdowns, it’s a simple and relatively inexpensive solution.
Learn more: HVAC Maintenance Doesn’t Cost, It Pays.