There are few things worse than coming home during the summer, wanting to relax in a comfortable, cool home, only to find out the AC is on the fritz. And despite putting fans in the bedroom, you just can’t sleep as comfortably when it’s hot without an effective air conditioner.
In this article, we look at the many reasons why your air conditioner might stop working, why it’s not cooling your home anymore, and what you should do when it does go out.
How Air Conditioners Work
Before we get into why your air conditioner might stop working, it’s good to know how the whole system works so you can better diagnose and understand the problem before you call for help.
The modern home air conditioning system is made up of two units, the indoor unit and the outdoor unit. The indoor unit is usually installed in a closet or where your furnace is located. This unit contains the evaporator which works with the refrigerant to absorb the heat from the air. By pulling the heat out of the air, the air becomes cool, which is pumped back out into your home.
The outdoor unit houses the compressor, the condenser coil and the fan. The outdoor unit is responsible for taking the heat absorbed by the indoor unit and passing onto the compressor which is the heart of your system and moves the refrigerant through the system to keep your home cool. The compressor compresses the refrigerant to a higher pressure and moves it on to the condenser, and then on to the fan. This whole system operates much like your circulatory system and as you can see, there are many parts involved, which when they break down, can cause your air conditioner to stop working.
Why My Air Conditioner Isn’t Cooling
Now we know the nuts and bolts of how your air conditioner system operates, let’s look at why it might stop cooling your home.
With so many pieces to the puzzle, a failure at any point can cause your air conditioner to blow warm air or stop working altogether. The following are the most common reasons why your air conditioner isn’t cooling your home.
- Thermostat Problems If the compressor is the heart of your air conditioner, then the thermostat is the brain, and when the brain fails, it can bring the entire system to its knees. If your ac isn’t cooling your home, check the thermostat to see if it’s set to the correct temperature. Also check to see if it’s set to “ON” or “AUTO”. Change it to “AUTO” because the “ON” setting allows the fan to stay on all the time even when the system isn’t cooling. Also, thermostats do go bad, so it’s worth checking to see if it needs repaired.
- Clogged Air Filters This one gets overlooked all the time, but it’s essential for the health of your air conditioner to keep your air filters clean by changing them regularly. The air filter traps dust, dirt, and debris and keeps your entire system clean. When it’s clogged, the airflow becomes restricted, and it makes the system work harder, which shortens its lifespan. A clogged air filter can also lead to your condenser unit to freeze, and when that happens they system can’t cool the air.
- Broken Condenser As mentioned, your condenser is an essential piece of your air conditioner, and when it fails, you won’t get the cold air you want. Condenser problems are evident by the system “short cycling” which means the system turns on and off rapidly. Take note if this happens because failure to fix it can lead to the system failing prematurely.
- Low/Leaking Refrigerant If your system lacks sufficient refrigerant, it won’t cool your home. Sometimes, pipes crack and refrigerant leaks, which leads to the system failing to cool to your liking.
- Broken Condenser Coils Your condenser coil is vital for producing cold air and sometimes an electrical failure such as a short can cause the coil to stop working even though the fan is running. When the fan runs, it’s easy to think the system is working even though you have a part that’s failed.
How Much To Repair My Air Conditioner
When Mother Nature turns up the heat, and your ac isn’t working properly, you want your system repaired as quickly as possible, but you also don’t want to hand over the kids’ college fund to do so. The average lifespan of an HVAC system is about 15 years with proper maintenance, so anything older than that, and it’s time to consider a replacement. Barring that, an ac repair cost depends on what is the problem, how much the parts will be and what kind of labor time is involved. If all you need is a filter replacement, you can do that yourself for about $20. Also, if your thermostat is broken, or placed in a bad spot, a new unit costs anywhere form $100-$300 plus labor.
However, if the fix involves a failed compressor, you could be looking at a $2,000 repair, in which case it’s better to think about a new unit if yours is over 10 years old.
When To Call Your HVAC Professional
Your home air conditioner is a complex machine which can prove to be a challenge even to the most handy people. Because of this complexity, you’re always better off calling in an HVAC professional when you have an issue. An HVAC professional technician undergoes rigorous training and education to learn how these systems work so they can quickly diagnose a problem and fix it.
Also, to keep your system running efficiently year in and out, and ensure that it lasts, it’s essential you conduct regular maintenance on the entire system at least once a year and preferably twice. Call your local HVAC professional and get on a maintenance schedule to have them keep your system running optimally so it’s always ready when you need it.