When your air conditioner stops working, your first instinct may be to call your HVAC technician. However, by taking a little time to evaluate the problem first, you can figure out if the issue is something that you can address on your own or whether that call to the repair service truly is necessary. Take a look at three of the most common causes of a malfunctioning air conditioner -- and how to handle each one.
Does your air conditioner seem to work okay sometimes, but not others? Maybe the fan stops working suddenly once the air conditioner reaches top speed. Perhaps the unit switches on, only to then switch off immediately after. Or, maybe it trips the circuit breaker regularly. All of these issues are signs of faulty wiring, which is one of the most common problems with air conditioners. There could be too much power drawn though a single circuit, in which case, the air conditioner will need to be wired through a different circuit. Some wires may be exposed outdoors, causing the air conditioner to lose power in certain weather conditions. It's possible that some wires may be frayed in the interior of the air conditioner, as well.
If you suspect faulty wiring is to blame for your air conditioner's issues, first try removing any other appliances from the same circuit that your air conditioning is on. If it is a simple issue of overloading the circuit, this should solve it. If your air conditioner still does not work properly, you should call in an HVAC specialist. They may have to corroborate with an electrician come up with a safe and effective solution.
A properly functioning air conditioner should not leak any coolant. However, if a crack develops in one of the coils or the junction between the coil and another component becomes loose, some refrigerant may slowly leak out. This will cause the air conditioner to start blowing out warmer and warmer air over time. It will still kick on and blow air, but as the refrigerant level continues to drop, the temperature of that air will rise until the air being blown out is the same temperature as the outdoor air. Sometimes (though not always), you may see some of the refrigerant on the ground around the air conditioner unit. It will be about the consistency of water and may have a slightly blue tint.
If you suspect that your air conditioner is leaking coolant, this is once again a problem to be handled by a specialist. Adding coolant to an air conditioner is a very specific process, and if you add too much or too little, you risk causing even bigger issues. Replacing coolant and repairing a leak can be expensive; if your unit is on the older side, your HVAC tech may recommend simply replacing it rather than attempting to fix the issue.
A Malfunctioning Outdoor Fan
If the air your air conditioner is blowing suddenly becomes warm, then the likely culprit is the outdoor fan. If this fan stops moving, then heat transfer cannot occur properly. This is one issue that you may be able to solve yourself without calling your HVAC technician. Take a look at the fan the next time the air conditioner kicks on. If it is not spinning, turn the power off to the unit. Use a screwdriver to remove the top of the air conditioning compressor. Try spinning the fan by hand. If it does not move, look for any debris that may be stuck in it. (Sometimes leaves and twigs find their way into the compressor.) If you spot any debris, gently pull it out, and then replace the top of the unit.
If you cannot spot any debris and the fan spins by hand, but not when the motor is switched on, there may be an issue with the motor that powers the fan. Your HVAC technician will have to address this for you. In a lot of areas, you can get 24-hour AC repair that will address your problems no matter when they occur.