Is your air conditioner acting up lately, doing strange things that have you running to Google for some advice, for an indication of how worried you should be? As the summer wears on, an old, aging or failing air conditioner can make itself known in lots of ways. Here are some of the most visible and common things you might notice.
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1. Why Is My Air Conditioner Leaking Water?
As warm air blows over the evaporator coils and cools, it’s perfectly normal for condensation to form, just like it does on a cold glass of water on a hot day. Your air conditioner has a system for dealing with that condensation, sending it into a drip pan and down a condensate drain line.
Typically, if you see leaking, it means something has gone wrong in that process. A big culprit is dirty filters. If you don’t have your system professionally maintained and you’re not so good at remembering those filter replacement dates, they could be at the heart of your woes.
Dirty filters block the evaporator coils, which can eventually freeze. When the ice melts, the accumulation may be too much for the condensation pan to handle and you’ll see overflow.
Filters aren’t the only culprit, however. The problem could also be caused by a damaged drain pan, a clogged condensate line, or a broken condensate pump.
Finally, low refrigerant could be the problem. If your air conditioner isn’t cooling as well and it’s leaking, that’s a pretty good sign of a refrigerant problem. And if your air conditioner uses the coolant R22 (or Freon, in brand-speak) then that’s a much bigger problem.
2. Why Is My Air Conditioner So Loud?
Air conditioners can be naturally loud for various reasons. Older units tend to be louder than newer ones simply because technology has improved over the years.
If your unit is under a bedroom window or on the patio next to the barbecue grill, it’s probably a bit more annoying the longer you spend listening to it.
But if you notice yours has gotten louder and noisier over time, there’s probably another reason. If the noise is coming from the fan, it could be because it hasn’t been properly cleaned and maintained. If yours is rattling or humming, it’s time to get it cleaned.
A humming or grinding noise might originate with a motor that needs to be lubricated. A grinding noise can also mean worn bearings in the fan motor.
Finally, an ever-louder compressor could simply mean your system is getting old. As the compressor ages, the first sign that it’s wearing down is usually an increasingly loud and noisy motor. If that sounds like yours, consider replacing it before bigger problems manifest.
3. Why Is My Air Conditioner Rattling?
Call it rattling, clanging, banging – if you hear it, shut your unit off to prevent further damage. Rattling coming from the outside unit often means something has fallen into the vents. It could be leaves, sticks, pebbles, or other debris.
Another possibility is that the normal vibrations of the unit have rattled a screw loose. It could be a mounting screw, or a screw in any one of the panels throughout the unit.
Sometimes a bent or loose fan blade could be wobbling and banging into something. Whatever the cause, a rattling or banging sound should not be ignored. The issue could be relatively small and easily fixable, but running your unit when you hear it is a recipe for much bigger problems.
4. Why Is My Air Conditioner Not Cooling My House?
If it’s 112 degrees in the shade, it’s going to be tougher for your air conditioner to keep your home at a chilled 72, no matter how efficient it is! But assuming you’re not dealing with anything unusual, an air conditioner that just doesn’t seem to be doing its job could be for a lot of reasons.
One of the more common ones is dirty filters. We blame them a lot, and for good reason. Air conditioners are machines, just like your car. If you don’t service your car, change the oil, tune up the engine – and just run it into the ground – you probably wouldn’t expect it to do very well in the long term.
The same is true of your air conditioner. If it’s not maintained, it won’t function as well. Clogged filters mean your air conditioner is struggling to push air through your home. Plus, remember how we said that dirty filters can also freeze evaporator coils? That frozen block of ice can also prevent cool air from circulating.
A blocked condenser can be an issue, too. If yours is very dirty, covered with leaves or overgrown with weeds, it won’t be able to properly dissipate heat and the unit will subsequently struggle to cool your home.
The problem could also be a bigger one. A failing or broken fan motor or compressor may require professional attention.
If you notice that it seems to cool inconsistently, that’s a sign of low or leaking refrigerant.
Sometimes, the problem isn’t with your unit at all but with your ductwork. Leaking ductwork means that no matter how hard your air conditioner works, cool air will escape into the walls, roof and attic where it won’t be doing you any good.
5. Why Is My Air Conditioner Not Turning On?
It’s a hot day, you’re waiting for the air conditioner to kick on and… nothing. That can be incredibly frustrating, but it could also be a ridiculously simple thing. Start by making sure it’s actually set to turn on. If you’re coming off a few cool days, the thermostat might be off, so be sure that you’ve turned it on and set it to a temperature that’s lower than the current temperature in the house.
If that’s not the problem, try lowering the temperature another five degrees to see if it kicks on. If it does, that could mean a malfunctioning thermostat and not a problem with your air conditioner.
If you recently had a power outage or electrical storm, your air conditioner could have tripped a circuit. Before you panic, check the breaker box.
The problem can also stem from clogged condensate lines or a broken pump. Either of those things can trip a safety switch that turns the unit off. If you notice either of these things, or if you reset a circuit breaker only to find it tripped again minutes or hours later, call a professional for help.
Sometimes a problem with an air conditioner is simple to fix yourself, and sometimes it requires the guidance of a professional. If you find yourself needing more help than Google or your inner DIYer can provide, get in touch with us for a free in-home review and estimate. We can repair or replace your unit and make recommendations based on your needs.