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.
While there are several things to consider when deciding which AC unit to buy, perhaps the most important question you may be asking yourself: What size AC unit do I need?
Not only do you want to avoid wasting money on the wrong air conditioner, but you also don’t want to throw your money out the window each month, as the unnecessarily large AC unit burns up your energy bill.
Likewise, you don’t want to buy a unit that’s too small for your house, which means it will be running all the time to try and cool you down, eventually leading you to buy a second unit.
Thankfully, you can avoid guessing games and calculate the right size AC unit your house needs.
There are several things you will need to consider, all of which will affect the size of the AC unit you will need for your house:
To come up with a ballpark, the three most important numbers you need to know:
Tonnage actually has nothing to do with weight. A ton refers to the AC unit’s capacity to cool the air, in other words, how much heat the unit can remove in one hour.
That capacity is measured in BTUs or British Thermal Units. Why BTU? A long time ago, they determined it takes 286,000 BTU to completely melt one ton of ice in a 24-hour period. HVAC experts eventually divided that number by 24 hours and came up with 12,000 BTU/1-ton AC capacity.
Using that measurement, a two-ton AC unit will remove 24,000 BTUs, while a three-ton AC unit will remove 36,000 BTUs. Therefore, the more tonnage the AC unit is rated for, the more air it can cool down.
To get a rough estimate of the tonnage you will need from your AC unit, use the following calculation:
Square footage of your home x 25 (estimated energy to cool one square foot is 25 BTU) / 12,000 –1 = AC Unit Tonnage
For example, the calculations for a 1,200-square-foot home:
(1,200 x 25) / 12,000 –1 = 1.5 Tons
You would need a 1.5 ton AC unit for your house.
If you live in a drier or hotter region, don’t subtract 1.
For example, the calculations for a 1,200-square-foot home located in New Mexico:
(1,200 x 25) / 12,000 = 2.5 Tons
You would need a 2.5 ton AC unit for your house.
This table should give you an idea of what size AC unit you need, depending on the square footage of your house (located in a temperate climate region):
|Square Footage||BTUs per hour||AC Unit Tonnage|
|450 to 550||12,000||1 Ton|
|550 to 700||14,000||1.5 Tons|
|700 to 1,000||18,000||1.5 Tons|
|1,000 to 1,200||21,000||2 Tons|
|1,200 to 1,400||23,000||2 Tons|
|1,400 to 1,500||24,000||2 Tons|
|1,500 to 2,000||30,000||2.5 Tons|
|2,000 to 2,500||34,000||3 Ton|
Of course, all the other factors we previously discussed will also affect the unit you ultimately end up purchasing:
There are commonly two different types of air conditioning systems you can install in your home: a packaged unit or a split system.
The packaged unit air conditioner is the one most commonly associated with a central air system. With this system, the evaporator, condenser, and compressor are placed in one single cabinet. This cabinet is most often located on a concrete slab outside or on the roof. This type of packaged air conditioner usually includes electric heating coils or a natural gas furnace. This removes the need for an entirely separate furnace.
This type of system is most often used in homes that already have a furnace but no air conditioner installed. It’s the most cost-effective way to install air conditioning in a house.
With a split-system central air conditioning unit, an outdoor cabinet holds the condenser and compressor. An indoor cabinet holds the evaporator. This indoor cabinet may also hold the furnace.
While it’s fairly simple to come up with a rough estimate on the right size AC unit you will need for your house, ultimately, it’s safer and will save you money in the long run, if you work with an HVAC expert to determine the proper size.
Installing central air can cost you between $3,779 and $7,429, according to HomeAdvisor.com. So you want to make sure you’re buying the right unit the first time.
Getting the right unit will ensure your cooling system can perform efficiently for years, especially with regular maintenance.
You already know how important a properly functioning HVAC system is to your family – especially on those sweltering hot days, and those freezing cold nights. Unfortunately, most of us take our heating and cooling systems for granted until it suddenly stops working.
There are, however, several things you can do to ensure your HVAC system is not only running smoothly when you need it but will be for a long time to come. Plus, HVAC maintenance is way more cost-effective than expensive, last-minute repairs or replacement.
Read on for a money-saving HVAC maintenance checklist.
One of the best ways to save money on your HVAC system is to schedule an annual inspection with the professionals. This not only increases efficiency and performance but could extend the life of your unit. While you should be conducting visual inspections of the unit on a regular basis, having a professional come out to inspect the more intricate parts such as airflow could save you from a more costly repair later.
During the inspection, most HVAC technicians will:
This often tops the list of most-overlooked-but-helpful tasks to prolong the life of your HVAC: filter replacement.
Regularly changing your air filters can go a long way toward ensuring your HVAC system is running at optimal levels. Regularly replacing the air filters can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5-15%. Dirty air filters can block airflow, reduce efficiency, and lead to greater damage to the system.
You replace the air filter in your HVAC system every month or two, especially during high-use months. But, if you operate in dustier conditions or have pets, you may need to change them out more often.
Did you know leaky ductwork can result in a 20% to 40% loss in energy? This is why you should be checking for leaks, separated joints, stuck dampers and blocked registers. The air ducts are the backbone of your HVAC system. Sealing any leaks could mean an extra half-ton of air conditioner capacity – for free!
If you can’t remember the last time you inspected the louvers on your air vents, it’s time to clean your air vents. Years of use can cause dirt, grime, pet hair, and dust to accumulate on the vent covers.
Not only will a thorough cleaning make them look better, it will help reduce the allergens in your home, and more importantly, it will allow your HVAC system to operate more efficiently.
Visually inspect your outdoor unit on a regular basis. It’s not a “set it and forget it” system. Remove any leaves, branches, or debris that may have settled around the unit. Ensuring there is at least two feet of space will help it run more efficiently.
Consider placing a cover over the unit to protect it from dust, mud, or other debris that may clog the unit. And, lastly, make sure the concrete slab the unit is sitting upon is still even. If it’s on an uneven surface, your unit could be running on overtime.
While it may be an investment upfront, transitioning to a programmable thermostat could save you money, help your heating and cooling system run more efficiently, and ensure lower energy bills.
Turning your thermostat back 7-10 degrees when you’re away can save you up to 10% on cooling and heating costs each year.
Nearly half of your utility bill goes toward cooling and heating your home each year, according to the Department of Energy.
Taking the time to maintain your HVAC system can prevent future problems and unwelcome additional costs.
According to the Department of Energy, three-quarters of all homes in the United States have an air conditioner. Those who don’t often struggle to find relief during those hot summer months.
In this post, we’ll break down everything you need to know about central air, and how much it can cost to install in your house.
Most simply put, an air conditioning unit removes the heat and moisture from inside your home and replaces it with cooler air.
The AC unit moves the heat inside your home, outside, consists of a:
The pump, also called the compressor, moves the heat transfer fluid (refrigerant) between the evaporator and the condenser.
The refrigerant evaporates in the indoor coil, extracting the heat from inside your home, and cooling it down. The hot refrigerant is then pumped outside via the condenser.
With a central air system, the cooling compressor is located outside your home, and the fan unit is located inside the home. The system utilizes the existing heating and cooling ductwork in your home to distribute the cool (or warm) air evenly.
Many homeowners don’t realize there are two types of air conditioning systems you can install in your home: a packaged unit or a split system.
The packaged unit air conditioner is most commonly connected with a central air system. With this system, the evaporator, condenser, and compressor are placed in one single cabinet. This cabinet is usually located on a concrete slab outside or on the roof. A packaged air conditioner usually includes electric heating coils or a natural gas furnace, which removes the need for an entirely separate furnace.
If you have a furnace but no air conditioner installed, a split-system is for you, as it will likely be the most cost-effective way to install air conditioning in your house.
With a split-system central air conditioning unit, an outdoor cabinet holds the condenser and compressor. An indoor cabinet holds the evaporator, and may also hold the furnace.
It is entirely possible to install central air in an older house; it just may take additional work from the experts.
There are two main things to consider when purchasing and installing an air conditioning unit:
Determining how much cooling your home needs depends on a multitude of factors, including:
Given that older homes have a higher level of air infiltration due to gaps in molding, doorways, loose windows and doors, it will make it harder (but not impossible) to control moisture levels and humidity.
The experts at Old House Journal, an online site that helps owners of older homes to repair, restore, and update their homes, say older homes usually do best with premium air-conditioning systems with a two-stage compressor or dual compressor, and adjustable speed blowers.
Deciding to make that investment depends on the cost to install, and whether you live in a climate where you have a longer cooling season. You should also ask:
Central air conditioning units are typically more efficient than single-room units. In addition to being quiet, convenient, and unobtrusive, they can also save you energy and money in the long run.
Even if you already have a central air conditioning unit, maybe it’s time to think about an upgrade. Newer models use up to 50% less energy to produce the same amount of cool air as the older models. That means, if you installed your cooling system 10 years ago, you could save up to 40% in energy costs by switching it out for a newer model.
If you’ve decided to install central air, it is likely to cost you between $3,779 and $7,429, according to HomeAdvisor.com.
Your final bill will depend on several important factors:
While installation is relatively uncomplicated, it’s important you don’t attempt to install central air on your own. Always work with a licensed air conditioning contractor to ensure your unit is properly installed. Experts with a license are also the only ones who can handle refrigerant chemicals.
A properly installed unit can perform efficiently for years, with annual maintenance. Improperly installed units will perform just as poorly as older, more inefficient models.