Written on: July 7, 2020
If you’ve been running the AC in your house all day and it’s not cooling your home down, not only are you wasting energy and money, but it’s probably pretty miserable inside.
There are a host of reasons why your AC might not be cooling things down properly. In this blog post, we break down what could be causing your AC to malfunction, and then explain whether it is a DIY fix or one that requires calling in the pros.
If you realize your cooling system has been running but is no longer cooling things down, before you assume the worst, check this list of easy fixes first:
If none of these things do the trick, then it’s time to look at potentially bigger issues.
Here is a list of a few things that could be to blame:
If you didn’t use the correct measurements to determine what size AC unit you need to efficiently and properly cool your house down, you may be using a unit that is too small. This would be like using a garden hose to put out a massive wildland fire. It’s important to fully understand the many factors, including square footage, geographic region, insulation type, and the number of windows, that can affect what tonnage you need so you can select a better suited AC the next time around.
DIY vs. Pro: You will need to call the professionals on this one. An HVAC technician can use the right formula to determine the proper size AC unit for your use, ensuring it’s cooling the house.
Your outdoor unit isn’t a “set it and forget it” system. Just like your entire cooling and heating system, you need to visually inspect the area around the unit on a regular basis. Ensuring you have at least two feet of space around the unit allows it to run more efficiently.
DIY vs. Pro: This one you can, and should, do on your own. Remove leaves, branches, and debris from around the unit, keeping a clear space around it. You may even want to place a cover around the unit to protect it from dust, mud, and debris that could clog the unit. And, don’t forget to inspect the concrete slab the unit is sitting on to make sure it’s even, and the unit isn’t unbalanced, and running on overtime.
If the AC still isn’t operating properly after outdoor maintenance, it’s best to call in an expert for a professional inspection.
If you don’t have sufficient air coming through the vents, it won’t matter what temperature you set your AC unit at, it won’t work efficiently. There could be several reasons including dirty air filters, vents, or ducts.
DIY vs. Pro: This is a multi-arm approach to get to the root of the problem. First thing, check your air filters. This is probably one of the most overlooked tasks that should be done every one to two months. If the filters are filthy, changing them out can increase airflow and improve the efficiency of your air conditioner. You should also regularly clean your vents, which can accumulate years of dirt, grime, pet hair, and dust.
The other solution to this problem requires a call to the professionals: Cleaning your ducts is more involved and you need to have trained HVAC techs come in and make sure to do it properly, without causing further damage.
If you didn’t know, most AC systems have two separate circuit breakers for both the inside and the outside unit. If your AC is running and is blowing air, but your house isn’t cooling down, the circuit for the outside unit may have been tripped.
DIY vs. Pro: Of course, the easiest thing to do is to check your breaker box and see if the circuit is tripped on the outdoor unit. If it is, go ahead and switch it on.
If you do reset it and it trips again do not touch it again. This is when you will need to call the professionals. It’s usually indicative of a larger electrical issue that needs to be fixed by a trained technician.
If your house is not cooling properly, it may be your thermostat. The thermostat includes a sensor that tells the system what the ambient room temperature is. This temperature reading is what stops and starts the cooling cycle. If the thermostat is malfunctioning, your cooling system would not know how to function properly.
DIY vs. Pro: The root cause of the thermostat issue will determine if you can make this fix yourself, or need to call in the pros. If the display is blank on the thermostat, try changing the batteries. If that doesn’t do it, then it points to a larger issue with the electrical wiring. Now, it’s time to call in HVAC technicians for repair. It may be time for a new electrical board or a new thermostat.
Look behind the air filter at your unit’s evaporator coils. If they are frozen, the air will heat up. The ice blocks the warmth inside your home from reaching the refrigerant in the coils, which means your air isn’t cooling, and your AC isn’t able to dehumidify the air.
DIY vs. Pro: The first thing to try is something you can try on your own: turn off the cooling system for 24 hours. This allows the ice to defrost and the coils to return to normal. If the problem continues then it’s a larger issue.
Now it’s time to call the professionals who can clean your evaporator coils. They use chemicals designed to remove the dirt and grime from the coils. They take special care not to bend the fins or coils.
Think of refrigerant as the lifeblood of your AC unit. Without the proper amount, the cooling process won’t function at all. The unit needs the right amount of refrigerant to produce cool air. Refrigerant is what circulates through the evaporator coils and cools the ambient air. That cool air is then pushed back out into the home to help cool your house down. There are two main reasons for low refrigerant levels: A leak or lifetime usage.
DIY vs. Pro: When it comes to refrigerant levels, whether due to a leak or usage, you always want to call in an HVAC technician. Not only will a reputable service technician have the right tools with which to measure your refrigerant level, but they are also the only ones that can properly and safely dispose of your older, used refrigerant.
If the refrigerant is the lifeblood of your AC system, then the compressor is the heart of your AC unit. It’s responsible for pumping the refrigerant from inside your home, removing the heat from the air inside your house and moving it outside. If your compressor isn’t working, your AC unit could be running, but it won’t be cooling your house.
DIY vs. Pro: The bad news, the compressor is the most expensive part of your cooling system. So unless your unit is under warranty, you may want to consider investing in a new unit. Unfortunately, because compressors are hermetically sealed, repairs are costly, and usually involve replacing the entire compressor. A compressor issue is most certainly a job for the pros. You should not attempt this type of compressor repair on your own, or it could lead to even bigger problems.
Like every other mechanical or electrical item in your house, the AC unit has an expected lifespan. The older it gets, the more issues it will start having, and the less efficient it will become. An older unit will start to use more energy and it will take more effort to cool things down. While regular maintenance on your AC unit will help extend it’s life, at some point, you will need to replace the unit for improved cooling, efficiency, and energy consumption.
DIY vs. Pro: While you can definitely conduct your own research when it comes to purchasing a new cooling system, ultimately, you will want to consult expert help. That’s where an experienced HVAC technician can come in to answer your questions. Not only will they help determine the right size unit, but they can also answer all of your questions about thermostats and properly maintaining the unit. They will also be the ones you turn to for proper and safe installation.