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.
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.
Are you thinking about installing an air conditioner? If so, it’s probably been a while since you’ve last researched AC technology. Perhaps you’ve never done it before. The process may feel overwhelming to you — but fear not. We’ve created the following guide so you know what questions to ask to ensure you’re selecting the right equipment, the best HVAC company, and what steps you can take to achieve ongoing satisfaction with your new central air conditioner.
Before purchasing a new central air conditioner, ask yourself a few questions:
A BTU is a measurement used to determine heating and cooling efficiency in household appliances, like air conditioners. In other words, you need to know how much power your new central AC should have to keep your home cool but still efficient. To determine how much energy your new central AC should have, you can use the Manual J Load calculation. This calculation helps you pinpoint the heating and cooling capacity your HVAC equipment should have. There are several online resources to help figure out your needs based on your home dimensions, like LoadCalc and the CoolCalc.
Your geographic location and the climate will also play a role in the type of AC unit you should purchase. Specifically, your location will impact the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating you need for your new AC unit. The SEER rating measures how efficiently your AC unit pumps out cool air. We’ve seen SEER ratings as high as 25, but in most cases, you’ll need 14 SEER or less. However, if you live in an extremely warm or desert climate, you might consider a 16 SEER.
The average lifespan of an AC unit is between 10 and 15 years, and if it’s been that long since you last shopped around, you may be surprised at how much AC technology has evolved, and what the new advancements can do for your overall energy bill. Newer, high-efficiency air conditioners could reduce energy use for air conditioning by 20% to 50%. For find a high-efficiency AC, look for ENERGY STAR certified equipment, as these products are specifically designed to save energy and lower your energy bills.
If you’re looking to save money, it might sound counterintuitive to tack on another purchase, but often when you bundle an AC with a new furnace HVAC companies will cut you a deal. It’s also a smart investment as mixing two systems — like an older furnace and a new air conditioner — can decrease the overall productivity of your systems.
Now that you’ve defined what you’re looking for in an AC unit, you’ll need to find a company who can deliver on your needs. Finding a suitable HVAC company is perhaps the most essential part of the equation because the ongoing maintenance of your equipment may depend on it. Apart from shopping around for the best prices, consider the following questions to ask an HVAC contractor.
First and foremost, does the HVAC company you’re considering have energy efficient equipment that matches the BTU and SEER ratings you need?
When determining the HVAC company you work with, you’ll want reassurance that the job will be done right. Make sure that the company you work with has state-licensed technicians and don’t use subcontractors.
A new AC unit is a significant investment. To get the most out of your money, ask your HVAC company how they’ll guarantee your equipment. For example, is there a warranty? And, post-installation, will the HVAC company include annual servicing plans? You can also ask if the HVAC company offers financing so you can break up the financial commitment of a new central AC unit.
Double check that the HVAC company doesn’t have a waiting list, especially if you’re purchasing your AC unit for an immediate need.
Will the HVAC company handle all of the necessary permits and approvals with the local authorities? Will they help you dispose of your old unit? And, will they clean up their work area (ductwork, walls, flooring) after finishing the job?
The HVAC company you work with should walk you through the installation process, but to know they’ve done an excellent job, consider the following:
This step ensures your unit is level. Without a level AC, the machine can’t correctly distribute fluids that allow the AC’s compressor run.
For example, the outdoor unit for your AC should be at least 1 foot away from the house. There may be other state or local ordinances that your HVAC company should adhere to as well.
Your AC unit will have a copper piping that aids the flow of the AC’s refrigerant. Take a quick look to ensure the copper line running from the outdoor unit to the indoor unit is well taken care of. If done correctly, the piping should be insulated, with additional supports every four feet, and the line should be as short as possible.
If your agreement indicated clean up, make sure the technicians have cleared scraps of trash from the installation area. And, if they promised to take your old unit, ensure they’ve done so.
Before your HVAC contractors leave, run the system through a complete cooling cycle to ensure it works properly. Check the levels of refrigerant as well to verify they’ve left a sufficient amount.
By selecting the correct equipment for your home, and working with an HVAC company you can trust with the installation process and on-going maintenance of your new piece of equipment, you’ll be able to enjoy your new central air conditioner years to come.