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AC 101: How to Troubleshoot Your Air Conditioner

by Carrie / June 26, 2020

Air conditioners (AC) typically experience the most trouble at the start of summer when people around Denver transition from heating their homes to cooling them. Some issues are more minor than others and the severity depends on your level of year-round maintenance. If you've kept up with regular maintenance from your local Denver heating and cooling service company, you may be in good shape all summer season. 

If you are struggling with your air conditioner, the good news is that many air conditioning problems can be easily solved (or sometimes prevented entirely) on your own. All you need is a bit of time and some foundational troubleshooting knowledge to address these most common AC challenges.

How to Troubleshoot Common Air Conditioning Problems


1. Weak airflow

If you notice that your AC comes on as expected but the airflow seems weaker than normal, there could be a few causes. Even if the air that’s blowing is cold, but its flow just isn't strong, it can mean the system is working inefficiently.

First, check your air filter. As the air conditioner runs more, the filter gets dirtier, faster. It's important to replace the air filter regularly, especially in the summer (and sometimes more frequently than during the rest of the year). Not only is regular replacement good for your HVAC system, but the U.S. Department of Energy says it can reduce your energy consumption by 5-15%.

If the filter looks good but the airflow is still weak, check the condenser. You can typically find this outdoors on the side of a home or building. Look for debris or plants that may be growing around it or on the unit, which could be causing it to overheat.

2. Blowing warm air

An air conditioner blowing warm air may not actually be a serious problem. Go through the same steps you would for a weak airflow: check the air filter and then the condenser. Next, inspect your thermostat settings. If your thermostat is set to "on" and not "auto," it will run 24/7, blowing air even when the air isn't cooled by the system. If the problem persists, it could be a more serious issue, such as a broken condenser fan or not enough refrigerant in the system. In this case, it may be a good idea to contact a licensed HVAC professional to have a look.

3. Not turning on or blowing at all

It can be alarming if your air conditioner doesn't turn on, but this is often a quick fix. Check your thermostat's batteries and replace them if necessary. If they're fine but the AC is still not starting up, there’s a chance you may have tripped a circuit breaker that needs to be reset. Nine times out of ten, one of these is the solution! In rare instances, there may be an electrical issue with the air conditioning unit itself.

4. Making strange noises

HVAC systems make lots of noises, but most of the time you'll know if one is not quite right. The different sounds indicate different problems and unfortunately, most require a professional HVAC technician. For example, a hissing sound often suggests a refrigerant leak, while loud bangs or thumps typically mean a problem with the motor or blower. Use your best judgment, but if a sound seems unusual, don't wait to contact your local Denver HVAC company.

5. Freezing up

If you see ice crystals on your air conditioner unit, turn it off right away to prevent further damage. The most likely culprits are a refrigerant leak or improper airflow that's preventing the coils from maintaining the proper temperature. To prevent this potentially serious issue from happening in the first place, keep your air filter clean and regularly check your condenser unit to ensure it's free of debris.

Need Help Troubleshooting?

Even if you're diligent about checking and maintaining your heating and cooling system, problems can still arise. The most important things you can do to prevent them are to regularly change your air filter, inspect your condenser unit often, and schedule routine maintenance and tune-ups through our HVAC Preventative Maintenance Program servicing the Denver metro area. Prevention is key, but if you do encounter a problem, don't wait to have it taken care of, as a delay can lead to much more expensive problems. Find out if you should consider repairing or replacing your air conditioner by taking our Repair or Replace Quiz.

If you’ve taken all the necessary steps and you’re still experiencing problems, feel free to give us a call at (720) 647-5099! Our technicians are ready to help.
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