It is summertime, and the temperatures are extreme. You tried to go outside, but it is just too warm. So you decided to go back inside, but you still feel warm. Your last option is to turn on the air conditioner to beat the hot weather.
After turning the air conditioner on, cold air was not coming out of the unit. It turns out your air conditioner has some technical issues. You called for professional help, and while waiting, you wondered what could have gone wrong.
How does an AC work?
An airconditioning system is an important house appliance, especially during extreme temperatures brought by the summer season. Several households have at least one air conditioner at home, which only shows how much people value it.
Although converting warm air to cold air may sound like a straightforward thing to do, it is not. In reality, several processes are involved in artificially producing cold air, which everyone appreciates during warm months.
There are several air conditioning system types. For this article, we will be focusing on the central air conditioning system. Think of a central air conditioning system like a refrigerator for the entire house. In a refrigerator, cold air passes through the vents and evenly distributes throughout the unit. The same happens in the central air system.
The principle behind air conditioning is transferring heat from one place to another while creating cold at the same time. The furnace cabinet in an air conditioner is the place that receives the cold air. A blower in the furnace cabinet transfers the cold air to the different parts of the house.
The furnace cabinet is typically large and noisy. It is advisable to place it in a location that is out of the way and is not usually accessed. So if the furnace cabinet is far, how is cold air transferred? The cold air that comes from the furnace cabinet distributes through the entire house via air ducts.
Being able to control the temperature inside the house is important. Having a continuous supply of cold air for an indefinite period is inefficient. Coupled with the ambient temperature, it could lead to uncomfortable levels of coldness. Thermostats found in the house makes the air conditioner efficient. It ensures the temperature maintains at the desired level by adjusting the amount of cold air it delivers.
Let us dig deeper into the air conditioner’s thermostats. A series of events will happen when the thermostat asks the air conditioning system to adjust its temperature. The air-handling unit draws air from different parts of the house. It passes through the return-air ducts, which are equipped with several filters to remove unwanted elements. The air then returns to the rooms.
Now that we know how a central air conditioner handles air, we move to how it processes the air to make it cold. Regardless of the brand, an air conditioner will always have a compressor, a condenser, and an evaporator. For a central air conditioning system, the compressor and condenser, which are found outdoor, connect to an indoor furnace cabinet that houses the evaporator.
The evaporator connects with the condenser through copper tubing. The copper tubing has refrigerant in it, which circulates between the condenser and evaporator. As the refrigerant moves through the copper tubing, it changes its state from liquid to gas as it receives and releases heat. The effect is the increase and decrease in temperature.
Warm air from the air handler passes through the evaporator coils. The refrigerant absorbs heat from the air, which converts it to vapor. Vapor now makes its way to the outdoor compressor and undergoes pressurization as it moves through the outdoor coil. The heat quickly passes through thin metal fins, which helps in dispersing heat. Finally, an expansion device makes the refrigerant cold by converting it to a low temperature, low-pressure liquid. It then returns to the indoor coil and out to the room. This entire process goes on for as long as the air conditioner is running.
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Why is my air conditioner not cooling the house, and what to do?
When the temperature set on your thermostat is 75°F, you would expect it to blow cold air. But when you went close to feel the air, it did not feel cold at all. Your air conditioner is running but is not blowing cold air, which is not normal if it won’t cool below 75°F.
Before anything else, check if you have a heat pump unit or not. Heat pumps can do cooling and heating, while air conditioners cannot. Your unit could be in heating mode, which causes the heat pump to not cool. In most cases, you will have to call a professional technician to check it.
Before calling a professional, there are a few steps you can try to make sure you do need professional help. Sometimes, at least one of these four steps can resolve an issue with a central air that is not cooling.
Is your thermostat switched to ON?
You will have to check your thermostat for this step. Confirm if the thermostat is in ON or not. A thermostat in ON means that air will continuously flow through the vents even if it is not cooling your home. It results in the AC blowing warm air.
Fixing this is easy and requires the thermostat. Look for the switch with the FAN label. In most cases, it will have ON and AUTO modes. What you need to do is to switch the thermostat to AUTO mode. In this way, air will only flow through the vents when the air conditioner is cooling.
Is your air filter dirty?
When did you last clean your air conditioner’s filters? If your AC is not cooling the house below 80°F, it may be because of a dirty air filter.
As air frequently passes through the filter, it is prone to accumulating different elements such as dust. Cleaning your filters is important so that air can freely pass through. Having a dirty filter will drastically reduce the airflow in your system, which causes your AC to struggle when cooling.
Remove the filter from your unit and check if it is dirty. If it is not, you need to clean it or replace it with a new filter. Some AC models have reusable filters, while others do not. You need to check with your AC’s make and model which type of filter your unit has. It is advisable to check the filter once every two weeks.
A clean filter does not only improves airflow to the system. It also contributes to the air conditioner’s efficiency. A clean filter will have less strain on the AC system to pull air. Consequently, it will require less energy to do the work.
Is your outdoor unit dirty?
Other than the air filter, the outdoor unit often gets dirty too. The outdoor unit, also known as the condenser, is in charge of bringing the heat outside the house. If the condenser gets dirty or covered with debris, the heat will have a hard time passing through it.
Cleaning the outdoor unit is typically a simple task to do. Looking at the outdoor unit, remove large debris such as leaves by hand. Once done, get a garden hose and gently clean the fins. It is important to note that the water pressure coming off the hose should be gentle. Otherwise, it may damage the condenser fins, which will affect airflow.
Has the circuit breaker tripped?
A lot of central air units have two circuit breakers. One circuit breaker is for the indoor unit, while the other circuit breaker is for the outdoor unit. There are cases when the circuit breaker for the outdoor unit trips, but the indoor unit circuit breaker does not. The AC will continue running, but the air flowing through will be warm.
To fix this, you will need to check the breaker box for the outdoor unit. If the breaker tripped, you need to switch it on. Turn on your central air unit and observe. If the breaker trips again, do not attempt to switch it on. It is a sign that there is a bigger issue in your unit.
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Why is my air conditioner running but not lowering the temperature?
It is a common mistake to think that lowering the thermostat will give more cooling. Lowering the temperature only means the AC unit will run longer to meet the temperature in the thermostat.
There are a few possible reasons why your AC is not lowering the temperature. The first is clogged filters in your unit. Check the filters and ensure that the filters are free from debris and other external elements.
It is also possible that something is blocking the condenser. Remember that the condenser needs to be clear from obstruction because it gets rid of heat. Blocking the condenser will only make it difficult for the heat to exit your AC unit. As a result, your central air unit cannot meet the low-temperature setting of the thermostat.
There are also cases when the thermostat is not working fine. A miscalibration in the thermostat may force the AC to turn off without even reaching the desired temperature. When it comes to the thermostat, you will need professional help to fix it as it involves a lot of electrical work.
Lastly, loss of refrigerant may also be a possible reason why your AC is not lowering its temperature. Having refrigerant below the normal level will result in a loss in the central air’s cooling capacity. To put it in simpler terms, the AC is running but not cooling enough. A refrigerant leak is a serious problem, which means you should call for professional help as soon as possible.
Air Conditioner Troubleshooting
It is normal for appliances to encounter problems sometimes. By nature, electronic products will only last you a certain number of years. Within those years, it may or may not breakdown. It usually depends on how often you use it and how much care you put into it.
Here are a few troubleshooting steps you can take if you are having issues with your air conditioner. In this manner, you can determine if you fix the issue by yourself or you need to call for professional help.
Evaporator coils are frozen
The refrigerant in your central air unit runs through the evaporator coils. When hot air passes through the evaporator coils, the coils extract the hot air. For these coils to work properly, warm air has to revolve around the coils. If it does not get enough heat, a thin layer of ice will form, which will cause the evaporator coils to freeze. The effect of frozen evaporator coils is the inability of the central air unit to produce cold air.
If you encounter a frozen evaporator coil, turn off the unit immediately and seek help from a professional.
Refrigerant is low
The refrigerant is a substance that runs through the evaporator coils and is responsible for removing heat from the air that passes through it. The most common reason for your unit to have a low refrigerant level is leakage from the refrigerant lines.
If there is a low refrigerant level, the central air unit is unable to cool the air. Call for professional help right away when this happens. Fixing a low refrigerant problem does not only involve replacing the refrigerant. It also involves looking for the source of the leak and repairing it.
Problems with the fan
The AC unit uses a fan to cool indoor air by bringing it to the evaporator coil. Another fan then blows air to the condenser, taking the heat outside the room.
If at least one of these fans are not working properly, your AC unit will run into issues. The common reasons why these fans won’t work well are too much dirt, belts that have worn out, a defective motor, or lack of lubrication. If left unattended, it could cause major problems such as the complete breakdown of the compressor.
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Condenser coils are dirty
The condenser coil found in the outdoor unit of your AC unit is in charge of expelling air. When dirt covers the condenser coil, heat transfer is affected, which will result in the coils not working well.
If the central air unit continues to operate, wearing in various parts of the unit will increase. It may also lead to a complete system failure.
Problems with the thermostat
A problem with the thermostat may lead to an inaccurate temperature setting. The AC unit may also not be able to main the set temperature in the thermostat, which will result in a temperature above or below the set temperature.
In most cases, a thermostat is easy to fix, which you can do yourself. If you are using an old, manual thermostat, you may have to check the instructions manual for the correct settings. If you are using a new thermostat, you can easily reprogram the thermostat.
Filters are dirty
Dirty filters in an AC unit will block air from flowing freely, which results in low airflow. It may also inadequately cool the room as the AC struggles to meet the set temperature. While it struggles, it will draw more electricity as it tries to reach the set temperature, causing your energy bills to go up.
To address this issue, you can gently remove the filter from the unit if it is removable. Gently remove large debris by hand, and wash off dirt and other small elements with a low-pressure hose. Other removable filters are also replaceable. It is best to check with the air conditioner’s make and model. In case the filter is not removable, gently spray water through the filter, avoiding any form of damage.
Ducts are leaking
Cooled air distributes to the entire space via the ductwork, which runs through ceilings and walls. Leaking in the ducts may occur if there is a hole or when the duct breaks. A decrease in temperature may happen because the cold air can escape where the leaks are. Immediately call for professional care to set an appointment to fix it soon.
Drains are clogged
As the process of converting warm air to cold air happens, it produces moisture. This moisture drains through a drain line. The drain line will eventually clog, which means moisture coming from the air conditioner will have a hard time to flush out. In worst cases, moisture may back up and cause damage to your airconditioning system.
Using a thin, stiff steel brush, insert it inside the drain line and gently brush it. For dirt that is a little bit inside, you can use a vacuum to suck in the dirt.
Outside AC unit not turning on or running but the inside is
In the outdoor unit, you can typically find a switch. Make sure that the switch is not in an off position. If this switch is in the off position, the outdoor unit will not receive any power.
Some central air units have a tripped pressure switch, which triggers when the refrigerant reaches a low level. As a result, the power to the outside unit gets interrupted to prevent any damages from happening. When this happens, call a professional as soon as possible and schedule an appointment. The technician will check for leaks in the linings before adding refrigerant.
Another possible reason for the outdoor unit not turning on is an issue with the thermostat. Inspect the thermostat and make sure there is a display. If it does not, change the batteries with a new one. After changing the batteries and there is still no display, you might be experiencing another issue with the thermostat. You can either replace the thermostat with a new one or schedule an appointment with a professional technician.
Lastly, the drain line may have clogged, which triggers a safety alert to the outdoor unit, immediately halting operations.
AC compressor not working, but the fan is running
If you can hear or see the fan running, but the AC compressor is not functioning, the outdoor unit may not be receiving power. There are no problems with the central air unit, which is why the fan continues to run.
Check the wirings that connect the outdoor and indoor units. The problem may be due to a tripped circuit breaker or a faulty fuse.
How do I reset my air conditioning unit?
The first step in resetting a central airconditioning unit is to switch off the unit. For a detailed guide on how to turn off your AC unit, refer to the unit’s manual. It differs depending on your make and model, so be sure to check before proceeding. Properly switching off your AC is an important safety step, which you should not skip.
After switching off your AC unit, look for the circuit breaker box. This box links to the AC unit, which you should also switch off. Typically, the breaker box is in hidden areas, such as the closet or the basement.
Count 60 seconds after switching off the circuit breaker box linked to the AC unit. Then switch on to let power through. The AC unit will perform its internal reset. Switch on the AC unit after going through all these steps.
How long should it take to cool a house from 80 to 72?
There are a few things to consider when talking about how long it will take to cool an entire house. Factors such as the outdoor temperature and the indoor temperature need consideration.
On a hot day, the air conditioner will need a longer time to cool a house. Typically, it takes four to six hours to cool a house from 80°F to 72°F.