If it’s in the middle of a hot day, and your air conditioner goes out, won’t turn on, or is just blowing hot air. But you don’t have to call a repairman, yet. There may be a simple solution right in front of you that can save you some time and money before you bring in help. Here are three ways to fix your AC, easy things to try before calling a pro.
Is Your Filter Clean?
A big reason for a broken-down air conditioner is a dirty air filter. Filters are the often overlooked cause to an inoperative AC. A dirty filter prevents good airflow and that means your AC will need to work harder to do the same job, which can lead to overheating of the unit. If you notice your AC pumping out hot or warm air, or turning off and on too much, then check the air filter. Change it or clean it, if it’s been more than a month. Check out our guide to getting the most out of your filters here.
Is There Power Going To Both The Indoor And Outdoor Units?
This is an important one to check before calling for help, because a blown fuse or tripped circuit breaker is a major hidden culprit of faulty AC. Our resident expert, Keith Hill, technical support manager at Minnesota Air, says that if your AC is not maintaining a cooler temperature, the first thing to do is to see if air is coming out of the registers. If not, it could be a problem with the furnace or blower, and that’s when you check to make sure it’s actually being powered on.
“Check both the on/off switch by the furnace and the electrical panel if needed,” he says. “If that all checks out, then take a look outside to see if the outdoor unit is running. If the fan is running, you know you have power, otherwise, check the electrical panel and the disconnect box near the AC.”
Keith says the disconnect box is a weatherproof box with a power switch for the high voltage inside and there may also be fuses. If needed, check those fuses.
In order for the AC to run, both the fan and the compressor need to be operating, but Keith says that sometimes it’s hard to tell with the compressor. Since you can’t see any of the internal moving parts, you can only tell by sound. That’s why many feel more comfortable calling a technician after this point. He says homeowners can also “feel” the compressor operating if you touch the copper lines (in the back of the unit) leading into the home.
“The small line should be warm but not hot, and the larger tube should be cool or cold but not freezing,” he says. “If you think the compressor is not operating, turn off the AC and call a pro.”
Did You Sign Up For An Energy Saver Program?
Lastly, many power companies have “energy saver” programs that they offer to customers. One of the Twin Cities’ biggest energy providers, Xcel Energy, calls their program “Saver’s Switch,” and you can read more about it here. The programs typically work by giving the consumers a discount on their energy use, and in exchange, the company has permission to shut your AC off during peak periods (hot days) – or if they have other reasons to lighten the load due to power supply problems.
“If this happens, the system indoors will function normally, but the outdoor unit will be powered off,” says Keith. “Typically there is a ‘saver switch’ located on the AC disconnect or on the AC unit itself. Some have lights that tell you if the utility is controlling the unit. If they are, there is nothing you can do but wait. A service tech cannot override the power company system no matter how many uncomfortable guests you have in the house.”
Keith says this tip may sound silly, but you wouldn’t believe how many homeowners call a technician for a broken down AC, only to remember that they are part of an energy saver program.