It isn’t always obvious that your air conditioner needs repair. The warning signs of an A/C problem are usually there long before the unit breaks down.
- Your utility bills are going up.
- You have to set the thermostat lower to stay cool.
- Your air conditioner runs too long or is short cycling.
- Your air conditioner has started making strange noises.
- Certain rooms aren’t cooling properly.
- The A/C unit is on but not blowing cool air.
- The A/C doesn’t come on at all.
We’ll get into these in depth in a minute. First, think of your air conditioner like a car. Your car may get you from Point A to Point B without breaking down, but that doesn’t mean it’s running properly. Low coolant levels could be creating excessive heat that’s damaging the engine. Low tires could be causing poor gas mileage. Eventually, these problems catch up with you and there’s a breakdown or flat tire.
It’s the same with your air conditioner. Unattended issues can cause costly inefficiencies and damage. Eventually, the A/C will stop working altogether.
Here are 7 signs you may have an air conditioner problem.
1. Your utility bills are going up.
This is a tricky one because it’s easy for utility bills to creep up over time without you noticing. Take a few extra minutes to look over your cooling bill each month. Compare the usage to the previous month and the same month in the previous year. Has your usage gone up? If you know you’ve been running the A/C more because of hotter-than-usual outdoor temperatures, that might explain it. But if not, and you notice a trend of steadily increasing usage, an inefficient air conditioner is the likely culprit.
A/C inefficiency can be caused by a variety of reasons, including:
- Clogged air filter
- Overgrown vegetation “crowding” the outside unit
- Too much dirt and debris on the condenser coils
All of these stifle airflow, making your air conditioner work harder than it should. Thankfully, they’re easy fixes.
- Check your air filter every month and change it when it’s dirty.
- Trim back any vegetation around your outdoor unit so it has plenty of room to “breathe.”
- Condenser coils should be thoroughly cleaned by a professional during your yearly air conditioner maintenance.
2. You have to set your thermostat lower to stay cool.
If you have to keep setting your thermostat lower and lower to keep your home comfortable, you likely have a developing A/C problem.
This too can be the result of poor airflow, or your fan motor may not be working properly. It’s also possible that your home is retaining too much moisture—humid air always feels warmer. (You’ve probably heard the phrases: “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity!” or “But it’s a dry heat!”) If taking the above steps to restore airflow doesn’t solve the problem, an A/C professional can help determine the source of your issue.
3. Your air conditioner runs too long or is short cycling.
A/C systems aren’t designed to operate constantly, or to run frequently for short periods of time. If you notice that your air conditioner is running far too often or is short cycling, you have a problem that needs to be addressed. This can be a fan motor or relay issue, a thermostat problem, or may be yet another result of poor airflow.
4. Your air conditioning system is beginning to make strange sounds and noises.
Let’s revisit our “an air conditioner is like a car” comparison for a minute. Just like with your car, it’s easy to quickly get used to new noises and think of them as normal. You naturally start to tune them out. That’s why if you hear a new, odd noise coming from your A/C, you should call for service right away. Otherwise you may accidentally ignore a developing issue until it becomes a costly breakdown.
5. Certain rooms aren’t cooling properly.
This is often the result of poor airflow to those rooms. Make sure the intake vents aren’t blocked by a box, laundry or other easy-to-remedy issues. Check to see if the cooling vents are open. If this has been a long-term problem for your home, your system may not be properly sized or vented. A call to an HVAC professional is recommended.
6. It sounds like the A/C unit is on but it’s not blowing cool air.
This is likely a blower motor issue. The A/C is cooling, but the air is not being circulated throughout your home. This could be a simple relay problem or it may be a failure of your blower motor. In either case, it will require the assistance of a professional HVAC technician.
7. The A/C doesn’t come on at all.
If your air conditioner stops working altogether, it may have lost power. The circuit breaker may have tripped. You can reset the breaker easily enough, but if it trips again, you likely have some sort of a short in your A/C system and need to call a professional right away.
If you still have power to the A/C unit but it’s not coming on, check the thermostat to make sure it’s properly set.
Regular maintenance is the key to preventing costly air conditioner repairs.
There are plenty of simple things you as a homeowner can do to maintain your air conditioner. Many of the A/C problems stemming from poor airflow in particular can be headed off with these air conditioner maintenance tips.
For the rest, there is no substitute for an annual A/C tuneup from an HVAC professional. Having your A/C system thoroughly cleaned, inspected, and tuned-up is a terrific way to avoid loss of cooling at a critical time. It can also help your equipment last longer and operate more efficiently.
If your air conditioner is showing signs of needing repair, don’t wait.
Air conditioner problems don’t resolve on their own. Ignoring the problem could cause damage to your unit that then requires more extensive and costly repairs. Calling in a trusted HVAC professional to take a look is your best move.