How To Know If My Air Conditioner Is Broken? Signs, Causes & What To Do

As the scorching summer sun blazes on, our faithful ally, the air conditioner, becomes our shield against the oppressive heat. But what happens when this trusty companion falters, leaving us sweltering in discomfort? A broken air conditioner can quickly turn a pleasant summer day into a nightmare, causing frustration and annoyance. In this guide, we’ll explore the signs of a malfunctioning air conditioner, delve into common causes behind its breakdown, and provide actionable steps to address the issue promptly.

What Causes A Broken AC Unit?

Imagine a scorching summer day – the sun’s rays blazing down and your anticipation for the superb comfort of your air conditioner building up. But then, as you switch on your AC, you’re met with warm air instead of the refreshing coolness you were expecting. A broken air conditioner can turn your oasis into a nightmare. We will explore the various culprits behind a malfunctioning AC unit, shed light on their potential costs, and provide insights into preventing these issues.

Dirty HVAC Filter or Air Filter

The air filter in your HVAC system plays a crucial role in maintaining indoor air quality and the efficiency of your cooling system. Over time, these filters can become clogged with dust, debris, and allergens. A dirty filter obstructs airflow, causing the system to strain and, in severe cases, shut down. Replacing the filter regularly – usually every 30 days – can prevent this issue. Neglecting it could lead to inadequate cooling and increased energy bills. The replacement filter cost is relatively low compared to the expenses incurred from a breakdown.

Tripped Circuit Breaker

An unexpected power outage from your air conditioner might sometimes be as simple as a tripped circuit breaker. The AC unit draws a significant amount of electricity, especially during startup. If the circuit breaker gets overloaded, it will trip, cutting off power to the system. Locating and resetting the tripped breaker can be a quick fix, saving you from a potentially costly service call. Ensuring your home’s electrical system can handle the AC’s power demands is crucial.

Thermostat Malfunction

Your thermostat acts as the conductor for your HVAC system’s symphony. A malfunctioning thermostat can disrupt this harmony, leading to inadequate or no cooling. Start by checking the thermostat’s batteries and ensuring it’s set to the correct cooling mode. If problems persist, seeking professional assistance is advisable. Addressing thermostat issues promptly can save you from more extensive system problems and discomfort.

Evaporator Coil Issues

The evaporator coil, responsible for absorbing heat and humidity from indoor air, is vital to your AC system. However, dirt accumulation on the coil’s surface can hinder its heat absorption capacity, leading to inefficient cooling. Regular maintenance and cleaning of the coil can prevent this issue. Ignoring it might result in subpar cooling performance and higher energy bills. Cleaning costs are generally reasonable, especially when compared to potential repair expenses.

Dirty AC Condenser Coils

Outdoor AC units are exposed to dirt, debris, and weather elements, leading to dirty condenser coils. These coils play a pivotal role in dissipating heat from the refrigerant. Dirty coils impede heat transfer, causing the system to work harder and increasing energy consumption. While you can rinse the coils with a water hose in minor cases, severe buildup might necessitate professional chemical cleaning. The cost of cleaning is significantly lower than that of extensive repairs caused by neglect.

Refrigerant Leaks

Refrigerant is the substance that facilitates cooling in your AC system. A refrigerant leak hampers cooling efficiency and can result in uncomfortable indoor temperatures and humidity levels. Detecting and repairing leaks through a professional leak test can prevent further damage to the system. However, repair costs can vary based on the location and size of the leak. Sometimes, investing in a new AC unit might be more cost-effective in the long run.

Clogged Drainage Line

The drainage line is responsible for carrying condensation away from your AC system. Over time, it can get clogged with dust, dirt, and debris, leading to water buildup and potential system damage. Regular checkups and maintenance can prevent this issue. If left unchecked, a clogged drainage line can result in water leaks, affecting your system’s efficiency and causing costly repairs.

Bad Capacitor

Capacitors power the motors responsible for running the compressor and fan in your cooling system. A weak or lousy capacitor can disrupt these operations, leading to inefficient cooling or system failure. Professional technicians can diagnose capacitor issues and recommend necessary replacements. Though capacitor replacement costs are relatively low, promptly addressing the issue can prevent further system damage.

Burnt Out or Pitted Contactor

Contractors supply voltage to the compressor and fan motor. A burnt or pitted contactor can hinder the proper flow of voltage, leading to inadequate cooling or system shutdowns. These components are relatively inexpensive, but their malfunction can cause significant disruptions. Timely replacement by a professional technician is essential to keep your AC system running smoothly.

Top Warning Signs Your AC Needs Repair or Replacement

Air conditioning problems always occur at the most inconvenient time. During a highly balmy day, the faulty or old AC system is often pushed beyond its capabilities. A properly working air conditioner is essential to your family’s comfort and health, and it is easily handled with regular AC maintenance service. You can avoid costly AC repair services by identifying minor issues before they become big problems. In other words, become familiar with the ten signs your AC unit needs repair or replacement.

1. Air Conditioning System is Blowing Warm Air

Nobody purchases an AC unit, so it can sit and do nothing but look cool. An air conditioner has a specific job to do, and that is to keep your family comfortable during the hot and muggy summer months. During the sweltering months of the year, you need an air conditioner to function correctly. However, if it fails to blow out refreshingly cold air and blows out warm air instead, contact an HVAC technician for assistance.

2. AC Thermostat is Not Working

Your air conditioner’s thermostat is the command center of the system. The thermostat communicates with the AC, letting it know the amount of cold air it must generate. Also, it takes measurements to ensure it is doing its job. If your air conditioning unit runs for small periods before shutting itself off, or if it won’t turn on altogether, this can indicate that the thermostat is not correctly determining whether the system is operating. If you are experiencing this issue, you want a trained HVAC specialist to examine this as well due to the complex electrical components involved.

3. Little Air Blows Out of Vents

Similar to the warm air problem is an issue with weak airflow. You may feel cool air when you turn your air conditioner on, but it is coming out very weakly, making it impossible to circulate through the room. In many cases, this indicates a failing compressor, but it may also indicate a problem with the ducts. Due to the uncertainty of this issue, it is best to contact an HVAC technician for a tune-up. A professional has the necessary knowledge and experience to ensure no bigger problems are waiting in the future.

4. Loud Noise Inside the AC Unit

While the AC is on, if you hear grinding, squealing, or scraping, a problem with a belt moving out of place may occur inside the unit. Contact an HVAC expert as soon as possible to avoid costly damage to other parts.

5. Strange Odors When AC Turned On

An air conditioner is not supposed to smell bad. If it does occur, there is a problem. In this situation, a strong smell may indicate a burned-out wire inside the unit, while a musty smell may indicate mold somewhere inside the unit or the ductwork. It is vital that a professional diagnose this problem ASAP because this can cause you and your family to get sick.

6. Not Enough Humidity Removed By the AC

One of an air conditioner’s jobs is reducing the humidity inside your house. Even in low humidity, the air maintains a small amount of moisture. The unit may need repair if you notice humidity inside your house while the air conditioner is running.

7. Problems with the AC Are Occurring More Often

If your unit has needed AC repair service at least three or four times over a few months, it is possibly time to purchase a new one and forget about more repairs.

8. Freon or Water Leaks Around Air Conditioning Unit

Any moisture leaking in or around your AC system is a problem. This can be an indication of a refrigerant leak. Due to Freon being poisonous, contact a professional immediately. However, in less severe cases, this moisture may be water from a broken or blocked tube that disposes condensation. This issue may exhibit itself in more than one way. Sometimes, you will notice water leaking out of the HVAC system; At the same time, other times, ice may develop inside your AC unit on the copper refrigerant lines located outside the condenser. This is a warning sign that you should contact an HVAC specialist.

9. Rising or High Electric Bill

Another indication that your AC system needs replacement or repair is an energy bill that quickly rises without extra usage. The cause of this problem may include a broken thermostat switch, leaks in your HVAC system’s ductwork, or the elevated age of the air conditioning unit. Regardless of the cause, your unit will need repair.

10. AC Lifespan Is Over

If your air conditioning unit is at least ten years old, you should be thankful it lasted this long and begin shopping for a new one. Air conditioners generally last up to a decade. These signs are helpful reminders of how to recognize a problem quickly and, in many cases, help avoid an HVAC unit replacement altogether. Keeping your home at a comfortable temperature during summer takes many properly functioning mechanics. Contact a professional HVAC technician if you experience any of these 10 signs. If anything goes wrong, trying to handle the repairs yourself can lead to unnecessary costs.

How to Stay Cool if You Have a Broken AC: Clever Tricks to Beat the Heat

A broken air conditioning system during the scorching summer months can be an inconvenience and a genuine health risk at worst. While we hope you can promptly address the issue, it may take some time before your AC is up and running again. In the meantime, you can employ several ingenious strategies to keep your cool air in and the hot air out, all while avoiding the unnecessary generation of additional heat within your home.

Strategic Use of Fans

Fans can be your best friends in times of a broken AC. Although they don’t lower the room temperature, they create a refreshing breeze that makes you feel cooler. Ceiling fans should be set to rotate in a counterclockwise direction, pushing air downward to generate a cooling effect. Turn off fans when you leave the room to conserve energy. Placing fans in windows at night can help draw in cooler air from the outside, providing much-needed relief.

Cooling Techniques for You and Your Space

  • Wet Towel and Damp Clothes: Keep yourself cool by placing a wet towel around your neck or wearing damp clothes. These techniques can help lower your body temperature and make you feel more comfortable.
  • Ice Blocks for Enhanced Cooling: The cooling effect of ice is remarkable. Place a large block of ice in front of a fan or use ice packs in contact with your pulse points, such as your neck, wrists, and inner elbows. These methods help cool your blood and offer a quick respite from the heat.
  • Cooling the Room with Ice: Placing a big block of ice on a baking sheet or in a casserole dish can amplify the cooling effect in a room. The cold air produced by the melting ice can help maintain a more comfortable environment.

Shielding Your Space from Heat

  • Block Sunlight: Windows that face west and south tend to let in the most heat. Use curtains, sheets, or blinds to prevent sunlight from penetrating these windows. This will reduce the amount of heat generated in your home.
  • Close Windows and Doors: Hot air flows through open windows and doors into your home. Keep them closed as long as the outdoor temperature exceeds the indoor temperature. This prevents your space from turning into an oven.

Adapting Daily Activities

  • Avoid Heat-Generating Activities: Cooking indoors using ovens, stoves, dryers, and dishwashers generates extra heat. Consider grilling or eating cold foods until your AC is repaired. This will prevent your home from heating up even further.
  • Stay Hydrated: Increased heat often leads to excessive sweating, causing dehydration. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to replenish lost fluids. Start your day with a glass of water and continue hydrating consistently.

Seeking Refuge in Air-Conditioned Spaces

If the heat becomes unbearable, consider spending time in air-conditioned environments outside your home. Cafes, malls, libraries, and even your car with functional AC can offer respite. Ensure you stay connected with friends and family and have someone check on you if you live alone, especially during extreme heat conditions.

Monitoring Your Health

Keep a close eye on your well-being and that of your household members. If you experience symptoms of overheating or heat-related illnesses, seek medical assistance promptly. Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you’re in distress.

How much AC noise is normal?

Is the persistent hum of your air conditioner disrupting your peace and quiet? Are you finding it increasingly frustrating, especially when seeking a good night’s sleep? The struggle is accurate, and you’re not alone.

Why Loud AC Sounds Matter?

Contrary to what some might believe, worrying about air conditioner noise isn’t trivial. Growing evidence shows constant exposure to loud sounds can permanently damage your hearing. Loud noises can harm the cells within the inner ear; unfortunately, damage to these cells is usually irreversible.

While a safe noise limit is considered to be around 85 decibels for eight hours, as the noise level increases, the time you can listen without damage decreases. For instance, exposure to 100 decibels (roughly the sound of a subway train) should be limited to just 15 minutes a day. Air conditioner decibel ratings vary significantly, with quiet units producing around 25 decibels and some standard units emitting 78 to 82 decibels. While not excessively high, prolonged exposure to these levels can harm your ears. This underscores the importance of minimizing unwanted air conditioner noise.

Routine Air Conditioner Sounds vs. Performance Issues

Air conditioners emit a range of sounds, some of which are routine and harmless, while others may signal underlying performance issues. Steady blowing sounds and gentle hums are generally normal operational noises. However, if you notice banging, whistling, or bubbling noises, it’s advisable to contact an HVAC technician, as these might indicate problems.

Ideal Air Conditioner Sound Level

To put things into perspective, a typical conversation generates around 40-60 decibels of sound. Ideally, an air conditioner’s noise level should not exceed this range to ensure a peaceful environment. Quieter air conditioners emit sounds below 40 decibels, with some exceptional units reaching as low as 19 decibels – comparable to a whisper from five feet away.

How to Decrease Air Conditioner Sound Level?

Here are practical measures to reduce air conditioner noise and restore the tranquility you deserve:

  1. Optimal Installation Location: When installing a new HVAC unit, consult a professional to determine the best location. Placing it away from frequently used rooms and bedrooms can minimize sound disruption. Avoid positioning it near air ducts or narrow hallways to prevent sound amplification.
  2. Level Your Outdoor Condenser Pad: An uneven outdoor condenser pad can cause vibrations that increase noise levels. Ensure stability by leveling the pad and reducing vibration-induced sounds.
  3. AC Sound Blanket: Consider using a sound blanket designed to fit over your condenser unit. Contrary to myths, sound blankets encourage air circulation and insulate the unit, maintaining a consistent temperature.
  4. Install Sound Barriers: Constructing a fence around the outdoor condenser unit can muffle noise. Opt for materials like wood that minimize sound reverberation and ensure adequate airflow around the unit.
  5. Insulate Ducts: Insulating ducts help absorb sound, preventing it from spreading between rooms. Foil-faced fiberglass insulation is effective for soundproofing and energy efficiency.
  6. Harness the Power of Vegetation: Plant shrubs around the outdoor condenser unit to create a natural sound barrier. Ensure they’re positioned at a distance to avoid obstructing airflow.
  7. Regular Maintenance: Dirty fan blades and air filters can increase noise levels. Schedule regular maintenance to keep your AC operating at its quietest.
  8. Seal Gaps Around Window Units: Window air conditioners often produce excess noise due to gaps around the unit. Tighten screws and insulate gaps to prevent external sounds from infiltrating your space.
  9. Consider Modern Units: When replacing your air conditioner, opt for newer models engineered for quieter operation. Ductless air conditioners are a wise choice, with their lower noise levels and higher energy efficiency.

Troubleshooting Tips For A Broken Air Conditioner

When the sweltering heat of summer arrives, there’s nothing more frustrating than encountering a malfunctioning air conditioner. You can tackle minor AC issues before they escalate into more significant, costlier problems. This section walks you through simple troubleshooting tips to help you identify and address common AC issues.

Check The Thermostat

The thermostat acts as the command center for your air conditioner. Begin your troubleshooting process by checking its settings. First, replace the batteries to ensure accurate functioning. Then, verify that the thermostat is set to your desired temperature and the cooling mode is switched on. Sometimes, incorrect settings can mimic a broken AC, making this step an essential starting point.

Check The Air Filter

A dirty air filter is one of the most common culprits behind AC problems. This diminutive component is crucial in maintaining proper airflow and air quality. Changing your air filter every month during heavy use, such as when your AC or heating system is running, is recommended. If you use your AC less frequently, change the filter every three months. A clogged filter restricts airflow and hampers your AC’s efficiency. Inspect the filter visually to determine if it’s time for a replacement. If it’s gray and visibly dirty, it’s overdue for a change.

Inspect The Drain Line

The drain line is responsible for carrying away excess moisture and condensation from your air conditioner. Over time, it can become clogged with debris or algae growth, leading to drainage problems. To inspect the drain line, locate the end of the line and shine a light on it. If you notice any obstructions or blockages, such as debris or algae buildup, you may have identified the source of your AC issues. If the clog is near the opening, you can attempt to remove it. However, seeking professional assistance for deeper clogs or more complex issues is advisable.

Inspect The Outdoor Unit

Your AC’s outdoor condenser unit is exposed to the elements and can accumulate dirt, debris, and critters over time. Regular inspection of this unit can help you identify potential issues early on. Look for signs of refrigerant leaks, which might manifest as a chemical smell and hissing sound. Excessive dirt or buildup around the unit can hinder proper airflow, reducing the AC’s efficiency. Additionally, animals might nest in or around the unit, potentially damaging components by chewing through wires. Keeping the outdoor unit clean and free from obstruction is essential for optimal performance.

Preventative Measures to Avoid Broken AC Units

While these troubleshooting tips can help you address minor AC issues, preventing breakdowns in the first place is even better. Here are a few preventative measures you can take to ensure your AC keeps running smoothly:

  • Regular Maintenance: Schedule annual professional maintenance for your AC unit. HVAC technicians can identify potential issues early and perform necessary cleaning and maintenance tasks.
  • Change Filters Regularly: Stay on top of air filter replacements to maintain proper airflow and prevent strain on your AC system.
  • Keep Surroundings Clear: Ensure the area around your outdoor unit is free from debris, vegetation, and clutter to facilitate adequate airflow.
  • Monitor Drain Lines: Regularly inspect and clean the drain line to prevent clogs and drainage issues.

Can You Replace Just the Outside Unit?

When faced with a malfunctioning air conditioner, the question often arises: “Can you replace just the outside unit?” While it might be tempting to address only the immediate problem by swapping out the outdoor component, this approach is more complex than it seems. Air conditioning systems consist of indoor and outdoor units that function as cohesive systems, and replacing only one part can lead to many issues down the road.

Typically, an air conditioner has a lifespan of around 10 to 15 years, which can be extended with proper maintenance. However, if your AC unit breaks down, there may be better decisions than replacing just the outdoor component. While the new outdoor unit might be pristine, its efficiency will be compromised by the aging indoor unit. Any deteriorating components within the indoor unit will strain the newly installed outdoor condenser. This mismatched pairing can significantly reduce the overall lifespan of the recently replaced component.

This is precisely why a complete AC replacement is a more prudent choice when replacing a broken unit. Although the upfront cost might be higher, the long-term benefits far outweigh the initial investment. An air conditioner operating at peak efficiency consumes less electricity, lowering monthly utility bills. An efficiently running system is less likely to require expensive repairs, saving you money in the long run.

Caring for your air conditioner throughout its lifetime is the key to maximizing its longevity. Maintaining an AC unit is relatively straightforward and can be accomplished through simple steps. Regularly changing the air filters at least once a month and ensuring that vents remain unobstructed can significantly contribute to their proper functioning.

However, it’s also highly recommended to enlist the services of a professional heating and cooling technician for annual or bi-annual HVAC checkups. These scheduled visits by experts help maintain the cleanliness and optimal working condition of your AC system. Furthermore, they can identify potential issues early, preventing them from evolving into more complex and costly problems.

The urge to replace only the outdoor unit of a malfunctioning air conditioner should be approached with caution. While it might seem like a quick fix, the interconnected nature of AC systems means that partial replacements can lead to efficiency and longevity problems. By investing in a complete AC replacement and adhering to regular maintenance schedules, you’re setting yourself up for immediate comfort and long-term savings.

Enquire with Relax Heating and Air About Broken AC Units Today

In the sweltering heat of summer, a malfunctioning air conditioner can quickly turn comfort into frustration. We’ve explored the signs and causes of a broken AC unit, emphasizing the importance of a comprehensive replacement rather than just the outdoor component. However, the question remains: how can you ensure your cooling system remains in prime condition and avoid the woes of a broken AC unit?

That’s where Relax Heating and Air step in to provide expert assistance. With years of experience and a commitment to customer satisfaction, Relax Heating and Air specializes in all things HVAC. Our team understands the intricacies of air conditioning systems, from indoor units to outdoor condensers, and offers holistic solutions that ensure optimal performance and longevity.

We encourage you to take a proactive step in maintaining your comfort and peace of mind. If you’re experiencing any of the signs we discussed in our article—weak airflow, warm air, unusual noises, foul odors, frequent cycling, or excessive humidity—don’t delay. Reach out to Relax Heating and Air for a thorough inspection and assessment of your AC unit’s health.

Our HVAC professionals are ready to help you make informed decisions. Whether it’s a simple air filter replacement, addressing refrigerant leaks, resolving electrical issues, or conducting a comprehensive system check, we’ve got you covered. We aim to ensure your AC unit functions at its best, saving you from unexpected discomfort and unnecessary expenses.

It’s time to take charge of your indoor comfort. Schedule an AC service with Relax Heating and Air today, or request a consultation to discuss your needs. Our dedicated team is here to guide you toward a well-functioning, efficient, and dependable air conditioning system. Say goodbye to the woes of a broken AC unit and hello to a relaxing, comfortably cool summer. Contact us today to experience the difference firsthand.