Do It Yourself: Troubleshooting Common Air Conditioner Problems

Troubleshooting the most common problems associated with air conditioning.

When it comes to figuring out what is wrong with an air conditioning unit, most people would prefer to leave it to a licensed professional. However, its quite possible to repair simple problems yourself. The first thing to understand is that there are a number of problems that can cause the same malfunctions. So let's go over a few of them.

The most common problem is that the air conditioner is not blowing cold air. There are approximately 7 different causes for this.

Here are some problems that occur from inside the house:

1. The main problem usually occurs with the filter just inside the air conditioning unit panel. Most people can change the filter themselves, but they neglect changing their air conditioning filter once a month and it ends up clogging. When the filter gets clogged, the condenser fins on the inside part of the furnace can not "breath" which causes it to freeze up, literally. Be sure to change your filter and try turning the unit off for a few hours to allow any ice to thaw.

There is one thing people may not realize. The main function of an air conditioning unit is to take OUT the heated air inside the house, not to cool the house down. When the unit takes the hot air out, it replaces it with the cold air sifting through the freon filled condenser fins. Untrained persons tend to think that the unit turns the hot air to cold air, which is false.

2. Another problem could be that the inside condenser fins might be clogged also because it caught the debris from the dirty air filter. There are special fin brushes you can buy to get the majority of it cleaned.

3. In addition, a low freon pressure could also be the culprit. The ideal pressure reading should be around 65-70 psi so you will need freon gauges to get a reading from the high side (the larger of the two freon lines). Freon can slowly escape from the outside unit over time. That is why the unit must be serviced occasionally. A set of pressure gauges can be bought if you want to check the psi yourself, but you will not be able to add freon. The reason for this is because you need an EPA license to work with freon. If you do need freon, companies will charge somewhere around $18 per pound per unit to install.



4. When the thermostat is turned down low and the unit inside is not coming on at all it could be caused by the condenser fan motor. Wire connections could be burning up or may have been loosened by vibration. When this happens, it needs to be replaced.

Problems from outside the house:

If the inside unit is on and there is no cool air, check the outside unit because it may not be turned on.

1. The outside condenser fan may be burnt out. A professional must service the outside unit for safety purposes. If the inside unit is running and the outside is not then the outside condenser will heat up and shut down until it has cooled off. This can also cause the seals inside the condenser to warp or even melt. First turn off the power to the unit. Next, the top part of the air conditioning housing needs to come off with an ordinary screwdriver. The fan is attached to the top lid and can also be easily unscrewed. Disconnect the corresponding wires and label them to allow with easy re-installation. After the wires are connected back, turn the power back on and attach everything the same way it came off. It's one of the easier tasks to handle.

2. The contactor may also be malfunctioning. You can tell this by a buzzing noise (usually loud). To replace this part you must take off the panel located on the backside of the unit. The contactor will look like a box with piston-like features. Again, you will be able to locate it easily by the sound it's making. Next, turn the power off and check for electricity flow with an Ohm-meter. When you start taking the contactor off, you can either unscrew the mounting brackets first or disconnect the wires. Just make sure you label the wires first so you know which wires connects to each lead. Once the new contactor is mounted you can connect the wires and replace the panel. Another job well done.

3. The outside unit may not be working at all therefore it may not be getting electricity. You can check this by looking at the breakers inside the house and also the breaker box just above the unit outside. In some cases, the connectors to the outside breaker may have melted together and they would have to be changed to a new breaker system or the wires could be hooked up directly with no breaker connection. The direct connection would mainly be used for a temporary fix until a professional can install the breaker.

These listed are the most common problems a unit has. There may be more to a problem not stated in this list. Every air conditioning unit will have it's own unique problems, but the list can give the homeowner an idea what to look for.

© High Speed Ventures 2011