The thought of an air conditioner repair can be a scary prospect, triggering fears about what's wrong and how much it will cost to fix. An air conditioner is one complex piece of machinery – far more complex than most furnaces.
When you understand how an air conditioner works, you might even marvel that it doesn't malfunction more frequently. But malfunction it might from time to time, and you are far from alone in facing an occasional repair. There's no doubt that some air conditioner problems are more common than others, but before you can understand what’s wrong, it’s helpful to understand the basic mechanics.
The mechanics of air conditioning
Understanding how air conditioning works may cause you to break out in a mild sweat of wonder. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers reminds us that an air conditioner first must pull warm air out of a home. Then it gets to work by:
- Blowing that air over a set of cold pipes, called an evaporator coil.
- The coil, filled with refrigerant, changes from a liquid to a gas as it absorbs heat from the air.
- The refrigerant is pumped outside your home to another coil, where it gives up its heat and changes back to a liquid. This coil is called a condenser because the refrigerant condenses from a gas back to a fluid.
- A pump, called a compressor, is used to move the refrigerant between the two coils and change the pressure of the refrigerant so that it evaporates or condenses in the appropriate coils.
- The excess moisture, called condensate, is sent through a condensate drain outside your home.
Complexities can spawn some common problems
When you have a complex system, plenty can go wrong along the way:
- If there is too much heat inside your home to begin with, your air conditioner will run extra-long to keep up with demand.
- If the refrigerant is low – or worse, there is a leak – your air conditioner's cooling power will be diminished.
- And if air flow across the outdoor coil is inhibited, the cooling power of your air conditioner will be reduced, too.
These conditions, and other ancillary issues, can trigger four of the most common air conditioner repairs:
- Dirty coils, a dirty compressor or fan and especially a dirty filter, all of which can be traced back to the need for regular maintenance. Nothing undercuts the efficiency of an air conditioner (and furnace) like dirt and grime.
You can do your part by checking the filter every month during the summer and replacing it when it's so clogged with dust and dirt that you cannot see through it. Let Hignell do the rest with an annual air conditioner tune-up.
- Refrigerant issues, in the form of low refrigerant or a leak. If you find yourself lowering your thermostat to stay cool, this is a sign that a refrigerant issue might be the culprit.
- Drainage problems, stemming from a blocked drain line or a crack in the condensate pan or drain line. If you see a puddle of water near your outdoor unit, it's time to call an air conditioner repair company.
- Electrical failures, often spawned by dirty, damaged or corroded wires or connections or a worn compressor or blower component. Again, an annual tune-up will allay many of these issues.
Common air conditioner repairs
To boil down matters further, it might help to know where the three most common air conditioner issues usually emanate from:
- If your air conditioner doesn't turn on, it could be because of a faulty thermostat or an electronic control failure.
- If your home doesn't cool down as it should, it could be because of a dirty filter, refrigerant or drainage problems or a thermostat issue.
- If your home is suffering from limited air flow, a dirty filter or leaking or clogged ducts could be to blame.
Yes, your air conditioner is one complex piece of machinery that can suffer a variety of problems. At The Hignell Companies, we don't want our customers to sweat a single one because we know for certain: for every problem, we'll do our best to find a solution and fix it.