Houston Heating, Cooling, and Electrical

How To Check Your A/C If It Stops Working And When It’s Necessary To Call A Technician

How to Check Your A/C If It Stops Working

The home’s HVAC system is one of the most complex systems in the home, and as the summer months heat up, it’s important to know how to check your A/C if it stops working and when it’s necessary to call a technician. While there are some things a homeowner can check on their own, there is a real risk of injury, so some things are best handled by a professional. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 10 people are fatally electrocuted every year while handling an air conditioner.

Aside from basic, general maintenance, it’s wise to bring in a professional to mitigate these risks and ensure your HVAC system is quickly brought back up to speed.

How do you fix common A/C problems?

If your air conditioner isn’t switching on or isn’t properly cooling the house, there are a few things you can do to narrow the problem down, and potentially resolve it.

Willing to get your hands dirty? Here’s the basics:

Check if power is getting to the air conditioner – If the A/C won’t switch on, check the circuit breaker to see if it’s been tripped, and reset it. The breaker may trip during a storm or if there are electrical issues with the unit. If the breaker keeps tripping after being reset, contact a professional, as this may be a sign that the system is overheating.

There should also be a shut-off box near the system’s exterior and interior components. If you’re going to be performing maintenance, turn these off to protect against electrocution. Otherwise, make sure they remain on.

Clean the compressor – The compressor sits outside and is exposed to the elements, dirt, leaves and debris. Over time, this can clog up the compressor and fan, making it difficult to circulate air into the system. To clean the compressor, first clear any plants that are growing around the unit, as these can also restrict airflow. If the power is off, the fan cage can be safely removed so that the fan and the unit’s interior can be thoroughly clean.

Clean the evaporator – The evaporator sits inside the home and is typically located in the attic. Like the compressor, it can be affected by dirt and dust to the point where it becomes clogged and may freeze up. To prevent this, homeowners can clean the evaporator coils with a brush and a can of compressed air.

The evaporator can usually be accessed by removing some tape or a few screws. In some cases, getting to the evaporator can be tough and may necessitate a call to a technician.

Clear out the drain line – As air is cooled, the humidity it contains condenses and drains from the evaporator. This is collected into a drain line that runs into a utility sink or outside the home. With time, the drain line can become clogged with debris or by mold and algae growth. In most instances, the drain line is a small PVC pipe that runs from the base of the evaporator unit to an exterior wall. Mix a bit of bleach and water and pour it in the drain to help clean out the line.

Change the air filter – This is a simple bit of maintenance that a lot of homeowners forget about. The air filter should be changed out on a regular basis as dust and other airborne contaminants will collect on it and form an impenetrable mat. If the filter is badly soiled, it may restrict air flow and cause the evaporator coils to freeze up.

When is it time to contact a professional?

If you’re uncomfortable handing any of the tasks listed above, contact a technician. HVAC equipment is dangerous to handle without the proper expertise, and if a homeowner isn’t careful, they could damage the system and cause it to fail early. In addition, contact a professional if any of the following are true:

There are still issues after you’ve cleaned the system – If you’ve replaced the filter and cleaned the compressor, evaporator and drain lines and there are still issues with the system not cooling or switching on, a professional will be needed. There could be a problem with the refrigerant or with the system’s electrical components.

The system is nearing its projected end of life – As HVAC systems near the end, they are more prone to mechanical and technical problems. If age is slowing your system down, a professional should take a closer look to see if there are multiple problems that need correcting.

The system runs all day, but still isn’t cooling – This could signal a refrigerant issue, but it may also mean that the A/C wasn’t correctly sized for the property. If undersized, the A/C will run constantly, but won’t have enough power to keep the home cool. If the unit is oversized for the property, it will cycle on and off too quickly, causing swings in temperature and an increase in humidity.

A natural disaster or electrical issue knocked out the system – Storms, floods and electrical surges are hard on HVAC systems and can cause serious damage. Handling an air conditioner following an outage can be dangerous, as it’s not always clear what has been damaged. Let an expert handle the inspection, instead.

Knowing how to check your A/C if it stops working can help save money, but when it’s time to call a technician, be sure to choose a company that that has plenty of experience and a positive reputation. Certified HVAC technicians know the risks associated with air conditioners and know and how to mitigate them.


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