It has happened to all of us at some point. At the worst possible moment, in the midst of a sweltering heat wave, the air conditioner just stops working. A malfunctioning air conditioner is one of the most annoying, uncomfortable issues to deal with, and will likely end up costing a pretty penny as well. During the height of the summer, it may be a necessity, as that crippling heat can be life threatening, especially with young children or elderly folks at home.
To avoid the hassle and the expense of having a broken down air-conditioning unit repaired, there is one important thing to remember: preventative maintenance. Call your local HVAC service professionals and have them perform preventative maintenance before you start to reach peak usage levels during the spring. If you wait until the height of summer, or worse, once the unit has already broken down, you will likely have to wait longer for an appointment as the repair service is likely swamped with requests, and will have to pay more for repairs.
When a repair service comes out to inspect your air conditioning unit, they perform six major tasks meant to prevent the most common causes of AC breakdown and improve efficiency:
1. Check electrical components - a damaged component could eventually lead to a short, which will shut down your AC, or even cause a fire.
2. Check refrigerant levels - The refrigerant both cools your air and helps prevent the unit from overheating.
3. Clean the evaporator and condenser - Debris or gunk on either of these components can reduce efficiency or even shut down your AC.
4. Oil the motor - A motor that runs too long without lubrication can eventually wear down and break, shutting down your AC and draining your bank account to replace it.
5. Calibrate the thermostat - This will ensure that your AC is set to the temperature you set your thermostat to, and helps prevent overheating.
6. Check, clean or replace filters - Gummed up filters make your AC unit work harder and provide less comfort and can contribute to overheating or breakage.
Should you still find your air conditioner still breaks down, even after you have had preventative maintenance performed, do not panic yet. While any number of things can cause an air conditioning unit to break down, some of the most common causes are actually fairly simple and easily remedied without the intervention of a specialist.
The first and most obvious thing to check would be the thermostat in your home. Some older thermostats can be easily shifted from cool to off with just a nudge or even a bang on the wall. If you have a digital thermostat, check and replace the battery if necessary. Even if it is not dead yet, a dying thermostat battery could reset the AC settings.
If you find that turning the thermostat temperature down does not cause the AC to turn on at all, there is a chance you blew a fuse or tripped a breaker. This is common on very hot days when the air is turned on full blast; the sudden power draw of the AC unit can trip the breaker. Occasionally, when you need the AC most, those extra hot days, an air conditioning unit can "freeze up," and unfortunately the only solution to this problem is to turn off the AC for three to five hours and let the machine return to a functional temperature.
If all your own attempts fail, you may have to call an HVAC specialist or electrician to repair or replace your unit. It is not recommended to try this on your own, as these units are complicated and potentially dangerous when handled by an untrained user.