Guide To A/C Issues: How To Identify and Fix Common A/C Problems

A/C and Cooling Topics

Air Conditioning Troubleshooting Tips: Common A/C Problems and Solutions

Many ambitious homeowners prefer a DIY approach to home updates and repairs, but when it comes to A/C issues, we always recommend having a professional HVAC technician come out to take a look at your system. Industry professionals are trained to find problems that homeowners might not know exist. Additionally, air conditioners and furnaces are large, complex, expensive and potentially dangerous. Rather than risk hurting yourself or damaging your HVAC equipment, hire an expert.

A good rule of thumb is to work with an HVAC technician for repairs and routine maintenance and stick to a few basic air conditioning troubleshooting tips and upkeep tasks that are safe for homeowners to perform. We recommend limiting your DIY A/C efforts to the following common A/C problems and solutions:

1. Replacing A/C Air Filter: Explore Washable HVAC Filters & More

Replacing your A/C air filter is an easy DIY task that can help correct and prevent some common A/C issues. A fresh filter keeps your A/C running smoothly and prevents A/C humidity problems and issues with allergens. A clean A/C filter can also lower your electricity bill because it makes your whole HVAC system operate more efficiently.

If you’re struggling with A/C humidity problems or poor indoor air quality, check your A/C filter. If it’s time for a change, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for replacing or cleaning your filter. Dirty disposable filters need to be replaced, but washable HVAC filters can be cleaned and reused. If your A/C uses washable HVAC filters, just make sure to let the filter dry thoroughly before putting it back into the HVAC system.

How often should I change my A/C filter?

The recommended frequency for replacing your air filter depends somewhat on your situation. If you live alone with no pets and no allergies, you may be able to go 6-12 months between filters. Generally, replacing your A/C air filter every 90 days is recommended.

If you live with many pets or you’re sensitive to indoor allergens, you may want to replace your A/C filter every 60 days or even monthly.

2. Your A/C Won’t Turn On: Air Conditioning Troubleshooting Tips

Fixing an A/C that won’t turn on is among the most common A/C problems and solutions. If your A/C does not turn on, that could be an indicator of a bigger problem, but there are a few safe and easy air conditioning troubleshooting tips you can try before calling an HVAC technician:

  1. First, as mentioned above, check your air filter. If you have a really dirty and clogged air filter, it could prevent your A/C from working. Try installing a fresh filter and then see if the A/C can be turned on.
  2. Next, double check your thermostat settings. You’d be surprised how often a small settings adjustment can fix the problem. If your thermostat is battery-operated, try inserting fresh batteries to see if that gets your A/C to kick on.
  3. If everything seems alright with your filter and thermostat, call an HVAC professional. You may be dealing with a refrigerant leak or other serious A/C issues that require an expert.

3. Landscaping Around A/C Unit

Lawn care and landscaping are an often overlooked element of A/C upkeep. During spring and summer, pay attention to landscaping around air conditioner equipment. Some simple tips for landscaping around A/C units include:

  • Use caution when mowing so clippings don’t get inside the A/C condenser housing.
  • Similarly, avoid weed whacking near the condenser.
  • Avoid planting prickly bushes near the A/C unit. Plants like holly and roses can cause problems when growing next to an air conditioner.
  • Make sure the unit is surrounded with grass or other plants — not so much that airflow is blocked but enough that there isn’t bare dirt and dust that can stir up and get inside the condenser.
  • Use caution when planting trees near the A/C unit. Shading the unit is good and can increase efficiency, but you want to avoid blocking airflow.

4. Diagnosing A/C Smells: Discover Why Your Air Conditioner Smells Bad

If your air conditioner smells bad, there may be a simple DIY fix to the problem. However, some smells are indicative of bigger A/C issues that will require professional attention. Here are some smells people commonly encounter and some air conditioning troubleshooting tips to try:

Burning Smell

If you notice a burning smell when your A/C kicks on, that could be a sign of an electrical problem. Turn off your A/C and call an HVAC technician to diagnose and fix the issue.

Musty Smell

A musty, dusty or stale smell could just be a sign you need to let some fresh air into your home. It could also be time to have an HVAC specialist over to clean your ducts. Some homeowners take an additional step to combat dust and allergens by investing in a home air purification system.

Urine Smell

If the air coming from your A/C smells like urine or rotting garbage, there may be a dead animal in your air ducts. Pests can sometimes find their way into your ductwork and will need to be removed in order to make the smell go away.

Sewage Smell

A sewage smell coming from your vents is likely a sign of a plumbing problem. A pipe blockage or leak near your A/C ducts can cause a sewage smell to spread throughout your home through the ductwork. In this situation, calling a plumber would be a good next step.

5. Other Common A/C Problems and Solutions

Some other basic A/C issues can be solved by simply keeping your A/C equipment clean. You can use a vacuum to gently clean dust from evaporator coils and coil fins, and there are special A/C coil cleansing products available too. Cleaning your A/C evaporator coils can help solve A/C humidity problems and keep your system running smoothly. We also recommend dusting the vent grilles throughout your home to maximize airflow.

When DIY Doesn’t Cut It: Hiring a Professional to Handle A/C Issues and Seasonal Air Conditioner Maintenance

Even the savviest homeowners have limits on what they can do to handle A/C issues. Some common A/C problems will need a professional eye and advanced expertise. Here’s what you need to know about contacting an HVAC technician for help with your A/C.

When to Call a Professional for Help with A/C Issues

Some basic A/C upkeep tasks are safe to do yourself, but when it comes to bigger repairs and regular seasonal air conditioner maintenance, you’re better off working with a professional. Some A/C issues are very complex, and you’ll quickly find yourself in over your head if you try to tackle them on your own.

For example: electrical issues. If you have issues with your air conditioner tripping the breaker, there may be an issue such as coil icing or an over-stressed compressor. These A/C components can be expensive to repair, so they’re better left in the hands of an HVAC technician. If your A/C unit keeps blowing the breaker, schedule an appointment with an A/C expert.

Another situation where we recommend bringing in an expert is seasonal air conditioner maintenance. Dusting your vent grilles is a simple DIY task, but you should leave technical A/C maintenance to the professionals.

Benefits of Seasonal Air Conditioner Maintenance

Seasonal air conditioner maintenance appointments help keep your A/C system in good condition. HVAC equipment can be expensive to repair and replace, and it is essential to your family’s home comfort and quality of life. A small investment in preventative maintenance can go a long way.

How often should I service my air conditioner?

Seasonal air conditioner maintenance should be performed annually. Spring is the best time to schedule seasonal maintenance. Call a local heating and cooling company and have an HVAC technician inspect your A/C unit and take care of any repairs before the hot summer months arrive.

Does maintenance prevent A/C from breaking down?

There's no guarantee that seasonal maintenance will prevent all problems, but scheduling routine air conditioner upkeep appointments every spring is a great way to reduce the risk of your HVAC system breaking down and keep your A/C unit running properly for a long time.

What happens during air conditioner service?

Typically, what happens during HVAC maintenance is that an A/C technician arrives and performs a visual inspection of the air conditioner equipment and controls. The tech will clean certain components, take note of any technical problems, check refrigerant levels and test the whole system.

At the end of a seasonal air conditioner maintenance appointment, the technician will let you know how everything looks. If additional repairs are needed, a follow-up appointment may be scheduled.

Consider signing up for a loyalty program or maintenance plan. Lozier’s Loyalty Rewards program offers customers routine tune-ups, discounted parts and filters and up to $1,000 off the price of a new furnace or air conditioner.

To Repair or To Replace?: What To Consider When Replacing Your Air Conditioner

If you’ve ever been faced with an expensive HVAC repair, you’ve probably wondered whether it makes more sense to repair or replace your air conditioner. On one hand, a repair is more affordable when compared to the price of all new equipment. Once you repair the issue, your air conditioner might run without any issues for a long time. However, a brand new air conditioner may be more expensive up front, but it could save you money in the long run to have a newer, more efficient system.

So, how do you decide?

How To Decide Whether To Repair or Replace Your Air Conditioner

Furnaces and air conditioners are complex, expensive pieces of equipment that have a huge impact on your life and your comfort. It’s understandable that making decisions about your HVAC system can feel overwhelming. There are some key factors to look at when you are comparing maintenance and upkeep with the cost of a brand new A/C unit. Here’s what to consider when looking to repair or replace air conditioners or other HVAC equipment:

  • Age - Age is among the first things to consider when replacing HVAC equipment. If your air conditioner is nearing the end of its life, it makes more sense to replace it when something serious breaks.
  • Condition - Has your air conditioner received regular maintenance? A well-maintained HVAC system will generally last longer than one that has been neglected.
  • Size - If your A/C is the wrong size for your home, it may be overworked and/or inefficient. Installing the correct size HVAC system will increase efficiency and lower cost.
  • Efficiency - Older air conditioners often lose efficiency over time. Also, technology has improved in recent years and newer, more efficiency units are now available.
  • Repair Costs - Simply calculating the cost of repairs and comparing it to the cost of a new HVAC system could give you a clear answer.

When reviewing what to consider when replacing your air conditioner, don’t forget to think about other parts of your HVAC system — ductwork, for example. Leaky ducts can cause your system to lose efficiency, but replacing your A/C won’t fix that problem. Have your ductwork inspected and sealed before investing in new HVAC equipment.

If you’re moving into a new house, ask questions about the HVAC system. If the previous homeowners neglected routine maintenance, you may get stuck with a failing air conditioner. Ask whether the previous homeowners kept their HVAC system in good working order with regular tune-ups.

Even with regular maintenance, an older air conditioner may become more susceptible to common A/C problems. If you plan ahead, you can start saving now for a replacement A/C when yours gets too old.

How long does an air conditioner last?

Most home air conditioners last between 10 and 20 years. The lifespan of your A/C will vary based on many factors, such as the relative size of the unit, whether basic maintenance was routinely performed, exposure to harsh weather and other wear and tear.

How often should you replace your air conditioner?

When your A/C is 15 years old, it's a good idea to start preparing for replacement. At this age, your A/C may have several years of life left in it, but it's important to be ready when it's time to purchase a new air conditioner.

Planning for your new air conditioner gives you the opportunity to investigate what new, high-efficiency options are available. Look into solar-ready air conditioners, for example. When used with solar roof panels, a solar-ready A/C is a cost-effective and sustainable way to cool your home.

Pay attention to SEER ratings when you’re doing A/C research. SEER ratings provide helpful information about the units’ efficiency and performance.

All About SEER Ratings

Air conditioners are given SEER ratings. These ratings are used to describe the overall energy efficiency of a unit and can help you compare models to see what’s the best fit for your home. If figuring out how to save money on electricity bills is a top priority, choosing an A/C with a good SEER rating will help you achieve that goal.

What is a good rating for an air conditioner?

SEER stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio. There is no magic SEER rating number. The federal minimum rating is 13 in this region, but some high-efficiency A/C units offer much higher SEER air conditioner ratings. Anything over 16 is a good SEER rating.

Lozier sells air conditioners with SEER ratings between 16-20. Check out the Lennox air conditioners we carry!

Is a higher SEER rating worth it?

Typically, buying an air conditioner with a higher SEER rating will result in cost savings over time. A higher SEER means a more efficient A/C, which will result in reduced utility bills. While a high-efficiency A/C may cost more upfront, the savings over time are significant.

How much do you save with a higher SEER rating?

When you switch to an A/C with a higher SEER rating, your cost savings can vary depending on multiple factors. Switching from a SEER rating of 10 to an A/C unit with a SEER rating of 20 can decrease annual energy costs by 50%.

A tool like the Lennox Energy Savings Calculator can help you figure out how much money you could save when you upgrade to an A/C system with a higher air conditioner SEER rating.

Contact Lozier For Your A/C Needs

Lozier technicians are experienced with a broad range of HVAC needs — from common A/C problems to advanced A/C issues. We’re eager to assist you with all of your HVAC needs.

Contact Lozier Heating & Cooling if you have any questions about your A/C or to schedule seasonal maintenance. Give us a call, send us a text message at 515-393-4262 or schedule an appointment online.