Things You Can Do Before You Call for Air Conditioning Repair

It’s that time of year again, and one of our favorites here at Ressler & Mateer – air conditioning season! As the mercury rises and daytime temperatures are regularly in the 80s and 90s here in our Central PA service area, you’ve probably recently turned your AC on for the first time this year. Hopefully, it’s performing as you expect, but it’s possible you’ve noticed some issues that make you think it’s time to give your HVAC contractor a call. Especially if you haven’t had your system maintained regularly, you’re likely concerned that the problem you’re experiencing could lead to an expensive repair bill and uncomfortable downtime for your air conditioning. (Why do these machines always seem to have trouble on the hottest possible days?!)

Before you pick up the phone, though, know that there are some simple fixes to common problems that you can try before you summon the experts. In fact, even if these troubleshooting solutions do not entirely resolve your issue, trying them will help your AC service technician fix more significant problems faster since you may have already ruled out some things. Either way, our AC troubleshooting tips may save you money.

Go ahead and give our tips a try now. And, if you’re still having problems, don’t hesitate to give us a call 24/7. We’re always happy to help get your air conditioning system back into service as quickly as possible!

Top Tips for AC Troubleshooting

Issue #1: No power/system won’t turn on

If your system is not turning on automatically like you’re used to and like it did last summer, there are two main things to check before calling for service: your home’s breaker panel and your system’s thermostat.

How to Troubleshoot:

A leading cause of system power problems is a simple flipped breaker in your electrical panel. Some people even flip certain ones to “OFF” when specific circuits are not being used for long periods of time (like air conditioning over the winter months). Also, if you’ve recently had electrical work done in your home, the switch may have been flipped inadvertently. Locate the breaker for your air conditioning system (or heating/air conditioning system if you rely on an electric heat pump) and be sure the switch is in the “ON” position.

Not a breaker? Check your thermostat next to assure that your settings from last season weren’t somehow reset, which could be preventing your system from turning on. If your thermostat is hardwired, for instance, a power outage may have erased your settings, and a simple reprogramming may do the trick. Change the temperature to about five degrees below the current room temperature reading and listen for the system to turn on. If it did – you’ve likely fixed your issue! If it didn’t, check our next two issues for more.

Issue #2: Thermostat isn’t working

Depending upon the type of thermostat you have installed to control your system, it may require a battery or two to operate (usually AA or AAA in size). While thermostats don’t often draw much power, these batteries will need to be replaced every few years, and a simple dead battery could be the source of your power issues.

How to Troubleshoot:

Replace batteries and then reprogram settings, as necessary. Also, double check that your thermostat doesn’t have a master switch that needs to be flipped between “heating” and “cooling” (some older models do) if both your heat and AC are controlled by the same thermostat.

If your thermostat doesn’t appear to need batteries and looks to be hardwired instead (and adjusting settings like we previously mentioned under Issue #1 didn’t seem to work), you can attempt to follow specific troubleshooting steps in the manufacturer user’s manual. It’s true that you probably don’t have the paper manual for your thermostat, but Google can help you find a PDF version, likely right on the manufacturer’s website. At this point, you should also locate your system’s indoor unit to check whether or not there’s water on the floor.

Issue #3: There’s water on the floor

This is a problem that often causes immediate panic since water leaks always spell expensive repairs, right? Not necessarily, though you will likely require the expertise of a technician to help with this issue.

As you may know, air conditioning relies on the natural properties of evaporation and condensation to turn hot and humid air into cool, dehumidified air inside your home. Droplets of water form on your system’s evaporator coil as part of normal operations, and it’s usually whisked away and out of your house via a dedicated drain line.

If you’ve found water near your indoor air conditioning mechanicals, it is often due to a clogged condensate drain line, which you can actually attempt to clean yourself. However, other parts of your system’s water drainage functionality may need attention beyond just the drain line. For example, if the condensate drain pan is rusted, it will need to be replaced, which is a job most suitable for a professional AC repair technician. Additionally, if your system hasn’t automatically shut off due to a clogged drain line or other drainage problem, electronic parts in your system may have been damaged. Expert technicians know what to look for and how to repair these more extensive problems, which are well beyond most homeowners’ capabilities.

How to Troubleshoot:

If you’re the kind of homeowner who likes to do as much as they can before calling in the professionals, cleaning your condensate drain line, which can become clogged with dirt, mold, or even dead bugs, is something you can try. First, know that if your condensate drain line IS clogged, it’s likely that your system is not powering on since many have a safety feature that shuts everything down if the drain pan fills with water. If you’ve found water and your system is still kicking on, shut it off immediately.

Cleaning your condensate drain line requires that you have a wet-dry vacuum set up for wet suction and that you know where your PVC condensate outlet is located outside your home. Use the wet-dry vac to attempt to remove the clog through the outlet pipe. You will also be sucking a lot of water through the pipe if you’re successful in removing the clog by this method. If you were unsuccessful, or just don’t think this sounds like something you want to mess around with, give us a call right away at (717) 322-2418! Clean up the water around your indoor unit and keep the system powered off until any condensate problems are resolved. 

Issue #4: Air isn’t cold enough

So, your system seems to be operating normally other than the fact that the air coming out of your vents isn’t very cold and your thermostat is reporting a much higher room temperature than you expect. Believe it or not one of the main causes of an underperforming central air conditioning system is a clogged air filter. When was the last time you changed your air conditioner’s filter? If you don’t know, or your answer is “I didn’t know air conditioners had filters,” it’s time for a change!

How to Troubleshoot:

Change your air filter. We repeat­ – change your air filter! They come in many types and sizes, so you’ll need to check with the manufacturer of your system to confirm what you need. These can be easily purchased online or even at your local hardware store and should be checked on a monthly basis during air conditioning season.

Issue #5: Weird noises/system is cycling on and off rapidly

If your system is making strange sounds, there may be many causes. Screeching could mean that a belt is loose in the air handler, for instance. Belt checks and replacement every few years is part of regular maintenance performed by techs. Rattling sounds could mean problems with ductwork including loose ducts or a simple need for cleaning.

How to Troubleshoot:

Unfortunately, if your air conditioning system is making a lot of noise, there’s not much you can do to troubleshoot beyond assuring that all necessary vents are open throughout your home. Loose belts in air handlers and problems with ductwork will require professional diagnosis and repair.

Issue #6: Weird Odors

Like weird sounds, weird smells are almost always something that should be checked out by a professional. Burning smells especially require immediate attention by a knowledgeable technician, as parts can sometimes overheat or electrical problems can cause fires in rare cases. Musty odors sometimes occur when ductwork is dirty.

How to Troubleshoot:

If you smell something burning, immediately shut off your system and assure that nothing is actually on fire! Call us right away for help after you determine there is no emergency underway.

If instead, you’re getting persistent musty odors while your system is otherwise running normally, you may be in need of duct cleaning, which we already mentioned in Issue #5 above. Duct cleaning has many benefits beyond merely improving the air quality in your home during air conditioning season, and we’re well equipped to help you address all of your duct cleaning needs.

As you can see, many things can go wrong with your air conditioning system. Did you know that most of these more minor problems can actually be solved through regular maintenance? Likewise, many major problems in your AC system can be avoided entirely with simple yearly checks and cleanings by an experienced HVAC technician. Get in touch with us at Ressler & Mateer today to discuss maintaining your air conditioning system on a regular basis so troubleshooting and costly repairs won’t be necessary in the future.