15 Air Conditioner Problems That Homeowners Face & Their Solutions
The summer season has arrived, and it’s time for the air conditioners to do the magic they do every year. Air conditioners, which were forgotten in the past few months, are again the talk of the town, and air conditioner problems simply cannot be tolerated!
90% of homes in the United States use some sort of air conditioning. In the summer season, the use of air conditioning units is significantly increased. However, there are a few homeowners who run into trouble once they start their air conditioner. After such a dormant period, there can be several AC issues, and it is important to give your units a good checkup before putting them back into use.
Like all electric appliances, air conditioners also need a regular tune-up. Some smart gadgets like smart AC controllers keep you updated with maintenance issues but keeping a check on your own is also important. This helps you catch any potential problems beforehand to not turn into a costly repair down the road.
Read over some common air conditioner problems to get your air conditioner running in excellent condition.
- Water Leak (Inside the House)
- Water Leak (Outside the House)
- AC Refrigerant Leak
- Dirty Air Filter
- Damaged Compressor
- Frozen Evaporator Coil
- Capacitor Failure
- Thermostat Malfunctioning
- AC Making Noises
- Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping
- AC Smells Bad
- Leaking Ducts
- Electrical Failure
- AC Fan Failure
- Weak Air Flow
Air Conditioner Problem 1: Water Leak (Indoors)
If you see water leaking from your air conditioner’s indoor unit, then your maintenance is overdue! The reason for water leaks from an air conditioner might be that the condensate drain of the system gets clogged up due to algae or fungi and causes the water to back up the pipe and into your home. Another possible reason for this AC problem could be that your condensate pump may have broken down completely and require replacement.
Solution to water leaking indoors:
The water leak is one of the common air conditioner problems and can be fixed with the help of a technician or even a home DIY solution. The clogged condensate pipe can be unclogged using a wet or dry vacuum. You can also pour 6 ounces of vinegar in the drain line to kill fungi or algae build-up. The exact location of the drain pipe within your unit may be wary, so consult the user manual beforehand.
Air Conditioner Problem 2: Water Leak (Outdoors)
On hot summer days, you might witness a puddle of water outside the house right under the compressor of your air conditioner. This could be because of several reasons: a dry air filter, broken condensate pan, bad AC seal, improper installation, etc.
Solution to water leaking outdoors:
After diagnosing this AC issue, the first thing you should do is turn off your air conditioner and disconnect the power supply. Things can get tricky if this problem is not taken care of timely. For such a type of air conditioner problem, you might need to call a professional.
Air Conditioner Problem 3: AC Refrigerant Leak
AC refrigerant is also known as Freon and is responsible for cooling the air within your air conditioning system. As the name suggests, it is the actual mechanism through which an AC cools your home. A refrigerant leak (link to the article) is one of the common AC unit problems and can reduce your air conditioner’s efficiency. Moreover, leaks can also be harmful to the immediate environment.
Solution for AC refrigerant leak:
In case of a minor leak, you will have to top up the refrigerant and apply a minor fix. In case of a larger fault within the pipes, the whole network might need to be changed. While recharging the refrigerant, be careful not to overcharge or undercharge the refrigerant. The performance of your AC remains top-notch if the refrigerant charge matches the manufacturer’s specifications.
You can detect the leak at home using multiple ways of detection. Once detected, analyze this air conditioner issue and undertake necessary actions to patch up the leak. Call a professional timely and get the leak fixed to avoid further AC problems.
Air Conditioner Problem 4: Dirty AC Filter
An air conditioner filter plays an important role in keeping the airflow clean and free from dust and pollutants. A clogged air filter restricts the airflow, decreasing the efficiency of your air conditioning system. A dirty filter also reduces the ability of the system to cool the air effectively.
Solution for a dirty AC filter:
If you feel that your air conditioner’s airflow is feeling stuffy or clogged up, check the air filter and try cleaning it since it is probably that dirty air filter restricting the airflow. Pet owners should be extra careful about the air filters because they need to change the air filter more often due to pet fur.
You should clean your filter every two weeks and change your air filter every two months during peak seasons when AC is used most of the time. Smart AC controllers can also help you keep a check on your system’s filter status. They can send an alert about when to clean the air filter.
Air Conditioner Problem 5: Damaged Compressor
One of the integral AC components is the compressor which helps refrigerants carry out heat exchange and regulates the AC pressure. Dirty coils, changes in refrigerant levels, and lack of lubrication can result in AC compressor failure.
If there’s not enough refrigerant, the compressor will become hot and stop working. If there is more than required, the excess refrigerant will lead to increased pressure in the unit, which can also cause it to fail.
Solution for a damaged compressor:
If your air conditioner is not cooling properly or detects a weak HVAC airflow, it is likely a compressor problem. Contact your local air conditioning service to solve this common AC problem. If there is severe damage, it is better to replace the compressor instead of performing air conditioning repair.
Air Conditioner Problem 6: Frozen Evaporator Coil
If your air conditioner is not cooling properly, it could be due to a frozen evaporator coil. It is a common problem with home air conditioners and occurs when your unit does not receive enough air to operate normally due to debris build-up.
The dirt accumulated on the coils restricts the airflow, and warm air does not reach the refrigerant. In this case, the refrigerant becomes too cold, and any moisture on the coils freezes.
Over time, the coil is encased with ice, preventing the refrigerant in the coil from absorbing latent heat. This AC problem disrupts smooth air conditioning in your home.
Solution for a frozen evaporator coil:
To diagnose this problem, first, inspect the damage. Then, let the evaporator coil thaw (defrost). This can be done by not using the unit. Be sure to disconnect the power first. The evaporator coil usually takes 24 hours to thaw completely. You can speed up the process by using a hairdryer. But be careful not to overheat the coil. In case of moderate frost, keep your system running on fan mode since the blower fan melts away the frost without shutting down the unit.
Read this guide to thoroughly clean your AC coils and avoid this issue in the future.
Air Conditioner Problem 7: Capacitor Failure
Sometimes, when your AC turns on and off abruptly, accompanied by a clicking sound, it signals a capacitor issue. A capacitor is an important part of your air conditioning unit and is responsible for giving the motor an initial push to start working.
In the extreme summer heat, when your AC has to work hard, the capacitor can overheat. Also, power fluctuations and frequent changes in the thermostat setting can damage your capacitor.
Solution for capacitor failure:
Contact a professional to get your capacitor checked. Unfortunately, you cannot repair or replace it on your own as there is a risk of an electric shock.
Air Conditioner Problem 8: Thermostat Malfunctioning
One of the most common problems with home air conditioners is the thermostat malfunctioning. For example, if your air conditioner is short cycling and your space feels warmer than usual, a faulty thermostat is to be blamed.
There might be a serious issue due to dust and corrosion build-up or a simple case of dead batteries. Loose screws or wires inside the thermostat can also affect its functioning. If you have placed your thermostat where it gets direct sunlight, it can also impact its reading. Another reason that your thermostat is not working can be due to incorrect calibration.
Solution for a faulty thermostat:
If you have a battery-operated thermostat, check if the batteries are working fine. To solve dirt build-up, remove the cover and take a soft brush to clean any dirt. If you notice a corrosion build-up, contact a professional as cleaning it on your own can lead to more damage. Moreover, check the placement of your thermostat; it is recommended to place it in a room that you use frequently and move it to a shaded area.
To check for thermostat calibration, take a glass thermometer and place it next to your thermostat. After 15 minutes, check the readings of both devices. If there’s a discrepancy of more than one degree, it’s time to recalibrate your thermostat. You can eliminate the problems with your old thermostat by switching to a smart thermostat. You can set it according to your preference and you can control it using your phone. A smart thermostat also helps in saving electricity bills.
Air Conditioner Problem 9: AC Making Noises
If you notice strange, loud AC noises coming from your unit, then it signals a problem. They seem annoying, but they help you figure out what’s wrong with your system before this AC issue gets worse.
Different noises indicate a different AC problem – for example, a grinding sound points toward the compressor or motor failure. If there is an obstruction in the AC fan or a capacitor issue, it will make clicking noises. A bubbling noise is produced due to a refrigerant leak or excess moisture in your unit.
Solution for AC noises:
You should never ignore the AC noise issue and contact an HVAC professional immediately. A technician will help you figure out what the sound means and fix the underlying issue.
Air Conditioner Problem 10: Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping
If your circuit breaker keeps tripping repeatedly, it can be a variety of issues, including power surge, capacitor failure, dirty filter or coils, low refrigerant levels, compressor failure, and issues with the circuit breaker itself.
Once you notice this problem, turn off the AC and don’t try to reset the breaker as it can cause a fire.
Unfortunately, there is no DIY solution for this problem. You would have to contact a professional as a circuit breaker involves electrical components and can get dangerous.
Air Conditioner Problem 11: AC Smells Bad
A pungent smell from your air conditioner is due to mold growth. A fire-like smell indicates that some electrical components are burning inside the system. A gas smell indicates leakage of Methyl Mercaptan, which can be dangerous.
If you turn on the AC after a while, you may notice a rotten egg smell coming from the unit. Birds and insects can get into your system and die, causing this weird smell.
Solution for AC smell:
Thoroughly clean your air conditioner when taking it out after a dormant period. For electrical issues and gas leakage issues, always call a professional for repairs.
Air Conditioner Problem 12: Leaking Ducts
In the case of ducted air conditioners, ductwork is in charge of carrying the cold air to your whole house. However, if there is a leak or a hole, it could affect your AC’s functioning. Even if your air conditioner is running for a while, you would feel like it is not turned on at all.
Leaking ducts can affect the air quality as the holes in the ductwork can suck up dirt and other pollutants. This extra debris can also clog the air filters and lead to uneven cooling and heating in your house.
Solution for leaking ducts:
To determine this common air conditioner problem, first look for holes and tears in the ductwork. If you can’t find the holes, you can turn on your air conditioning unit at full speed to check for airflow through holes; however, this will only work if your unit is blowing air. Most leaks occur where the two ducts are joined, so place your hand near these joints to feel air coming out.
After finding the leaks, use foil-faced tape to seal them. But tape isn’t a long-term solution, so it’s better to use a mastic air duct sealant. It is a sticky substance that you apply to the holes and gaps, and it hardens after drying. If you aren’t sure you will do it right, contact an HVAC expert to help you out.
Air Conditioner Problem 13: Failure of Electric Control
Sometimes you turn your air conditioner on and off so much that the compressor and fan of the system wear out. The compressor, condenser motor, and blower motor are connected, making a connection to start the unit. A disruption in the connection due to corrosion of wires or the terminals can prevent the compressor and motor from turning on. Power surges can also result in electrical failure.
Acid can build up in your unit as a result of electrical failure, which causes further air conditioner problems.
Solution for a failure in electric control:
To determine this air condoning unit problem, check the electrical connection, and if you cannot resolve the issue, seek a professional’s help.
A professional can detect the acid build-up during tune-ups as it is a major sign of an electrical issue. Regular AC maintenance can help prevent this in the future.
Air Conditioner Problem 14: AC Fan Failure
The outside unit of an AC transfers the heat from indoors to outdoors through a fan located in the outdoor unit. If the fan located outside the house does not perform efficiently, proper heat transfer does not occur. As a result of this, the air conditioner’s compressor may overheat or trip the safety load. The worst case is when it may cause internal damage to the compressor, leading to the replacement of an air conditioner.
Solution for AC fan failure:
If the fan of your system stops, then there might be an issue with the wiring of your system or some loose component somewhere. In such cases, simply remove the outer casing and visually inspect the problem. Again, be sure to turn the power off beforehand. In most cases, though, it might be difficult for you to diagnose such an air conditioning unit problem, so it is better to call a professional and get it fixed properly.
Air Conditioner Problem 15: Weak Airflow
If your home is experiencing cold and hot drafts or you notice pressure imbalances, it is an HVAC airflow issue. In this scenario, the fan cannot push enough air for various reasons, such as a dirty air filter or faulty blower motor.
Leaking ducts, vents blockage, and low refrigerant levels can also cause this issue. It is an annoying problem, especially in hot summer months.
Solution for weak airflow:
For a faulty thermostat, try recalibrating it and see if it works. For vent blockage, check if a piece of furniture or a decorated item is blocking the airflow. Simply move it aside to fix the problem.
Sometimes, it might be hard to pinpoint the exact cause, so always contact an experienced technician to help you out.
Use Your Newfound Knowledge!
These are some common AC problems that homeowners can face before or during peak air conditioner usage. Yous hould immediately cater to these issues to avoid bigger air conditioner problems. With this new information about air conditioner problems, you can now safely assess these problems with your units and resolve them sooner rather than later.
Regular air conditioner maintenance can help detect underlying problems that can decrease your system’s efficiency or might even lead to AC failure.