There is little doubt that, here in northeast Georgia and the metro Atlanta area, your air conditioning has already been tested this spring.
It has not been especially hot — in fact, it’s been a beautiful season so far — however, it’s certainly been warm enough to kick on. And if your air conditioning system is in need of service or repair, you have likely already noticed.
If so, why wait until the sweltering months of summer to assess if your central air conditioner service is ready for the biggest tasks? By then, you’ll just be adding to your misery. No, the time to act is now. And the good news is that, many of the problems you may be facing can be cured by a simple, do-it-yourself project. And, if those steps do not do the trick, you will at least know the time is right to call a service pro to come provide air conditioning repair.
If you get to that point, we’ll take a look a little later in this piece about what you can expect — and what you should demand from — any qualified air conditioner repairman or service from AC companies.
First, however, let’s take a look at what you can do on your own in terms of central air repair / service and save yourself some potential cost.
Troubleshooting your central air conditioning unit
Check the power
It could be that simple. First, make sure your thermostat has power. After all, your thermostat is the brain of your entire air conditioning system. Without it, your heating and cooling does not know what to do. If the thermostat does not respond, get some fresh batteries for the unit and replace them. Also, there should also be power switch located near your air handler — check to see that it has not been turned off (it will be located on or near the unit, which is inside your home). You will also need to check your home’s circuit breakers or fuses and make sure none of those are tripped or burned out, thus incapacitating ac unit (with the storms that sweep through every spring, there’s a good chance some of these may be thrown/burned). Also be sure to check the fuses or circuit breakers on the compressor outside your house (these are likely located on the wall next to your outdoor unit).
Do a thorough check of your thermostat settings
You, or someone in your household, may have accidentally changed the settings, or it is possible that the thermostat is still set for winter and therefore not prepared to kick on the air. So, in order to make sure it’s cooling at full strength simply set a temperature lower than your home’s current temperature reading. Give it a few minutes and see if the air conditioning kicks on at full blast.
Ensure that all of your home’s vents are wide open
Again, something simple here. However, you’d be surprised how many times this simple step can help you avoid calling a professional for central air repair. And poor flow through the duct of one area of a home will certainly affect the entire heating/cooling unit.
Check the air filter
You may need to find your user’s manual for this (to either locate where the filter is housed or the appropriate size of filter). A clogged filter will restrict airflow and even prevent cool air from circulating through your ductwork. It could also cause your HVAC system’s evaporator coil to freeze. Replace any old/clogged filters. And be sure to get a new filter that meets your manufacturer’s requirements. Ideally, you should replace your filter at least once a quarter to avoid this eventuality – more often than that if you have indoor pets.
One last simple easy repair attempt
If you are still not receiving strong air flow through your vents, you may also try switching your thermostat from “cool” to the “off” position and then switching the fan from “automatic” to “on.” Let the fan run for 30 minutes and then power up your air conditioning. The issue may resolve itself within 12 hours.
Even if your central air continues to struggle after these simple diagnostics, that does not mean that you are up the proverbial creek. And there are more DIY steps you may continue to take. If you decide to do so, please stick to these guidelines.
First, get the right equipment for the situation, including:
- A multimeter
- A voltage sniffer
- And, of course, a set of screwdrivers and socket wrenches
Now, let’s get going (again). Take a few seconds to listen to your condenser. Your unit’s compressor (located outside) and its fan should also be running – don’t worry, you’ll be able to hear its hum quite easily. If it is not humming, then that’s a sign that you’ll need to begin maintenance.
One of the most common air conditioning failure is caused by a broken contactor/relay or a start/run capacitor – especially in units five years or older. Once you have purchased these parts, you’re ready to begin working your way through the unit.
The first step in physical air conditioning repair is to properly ensure the power to the condenser is off — both for safety and to avoid causing more problems. To address this, first, switch off all breakers to the air conditioning/furnace unit and turn off your furnace switch. Now, open the electrical box next to your central air conditioning condenser and remove the disconnect box. At this point, use that voltage sniffer to ensure there is no power still flowing through the box. Inside the disconnect box are likely two cartridge fuses. Use your multimeter to determine if they are working. Success could be as simple as replacing those fuses.
The next steps in air conditioning repair involve replacing the start/run capacitor, which is located inside the condenser’s access panel. The capacitor stores electricity and releases it to help compressor and condenser startup. NOTE: You will need to discharge the energy in the capacitor before removing it, which may be accomplished using an insulated handle screwdriver.
The next step involves replacing the contactor – a mechanical relay within the control panel. NOTE: Ensure that you note where all the attached wires fit within the contactor and replace them like-for-like on the new contactor, or else it will not work.
The final DIY step involves replacing the fan motor. Be sure to note the position of the fan blade and determine which end faces upward. NOTE: When routing the motor wires through the old conduit it is a good idea to secure the wires with zip ties so that the blade does not cut them when turned on.
After replacing any and all of these parts you will want to restart your central air conditioning unit. Know, however, that many units have built-in delay features that may take as long as 10 minutes to re-establish following a power outage. In the cases of energy-saving devices, it could take longer. And be sure you reverse your way through each step of the power-down process, replacing the disconnect block, turning the furnace switch “on,” triggering the circuit breaker, turning the central air conditioning “on” at the thermostat and setting the indoor temperature lower than the outside air temperature.
If none of this works, shut down your cooling system altogether. If it is already crippled, you risk further damage by continuing to run the air conditioner.
At this point, your next step lies in choosing the right air conditioning repair company. If you do not have a service contract, or a company that you have worked with in the past, take some time to do some quick research on HVAC repair companies in your area. Aside from canvassing neighbors and friends, use a Google search, not YELP! Google makes it very difficult to write fake reviews unlike some other applications. And be certain that any company that you contact is state licensed, as well as bonded and fully-insured.
Know that are several issues that could be the source of your problem, including: low refrigerant (due to a leak or not being refilled over too long a period), clogged drain lines, and/or iced-over condenser coils or evaporator coils. And there is a wide scale of typical air con repairs. According to serviceexperts.com average repairs range:
- Fixing refrigerant leaks costs – $150-$500
- AC circuit board replacements – $450-$1,300
- Thermostat replacement – $200-$500
- Capacitor replacement – $250-$350
- Contactor replacement – $150-$350
Any air conditioning repairs, emergency or not, should first come with a written estimate. And do not allow a company to give you an estimate over the phone without having looked at the problem firsthand.
If you find yourself in need of professionals, please consider the air conditioning repair experts at Conditioned Air Systems. Our family of NATE-certified technicians will diagnose and fix any central air repair problem you may have and will do so quickly and with a commitment to service you will not forget. We also offer a 24/7 service line for our customers facing issues outside of normal business hours.