If your air conditioner stops working while the outside temperatures are soaring, your first move is probably to call an HVAC company. This approach is the best way to get your system running reliably again, but that doesn't mean you might not be looking for a little more information in the meantime. Surprisingly, you can learn a lot about your AC problems by observing your equipment.
If your air conditioner is leaving you sweating, try these three tips to understand what may be happening just by looking and listening.
1. Look at the Condenser Fan
Your condenser unit is the part of your AC system that lives outside. This unit contains the bulk of your air conditioning components, including the compressor and condenser coils. A large fan on top of the condenser helps release heat from the coils while also keeping the compressor cool. The refrigerant cycle will operate less efficiently if the fan stops running, and the compressor may overheat.
The condenser fan should run any time your AC system is on. If the fan isn't running, make sure the system has power and check the nearby disconnect breaker. Assuming there's electricity flowing to the unit, you may have a problem with your start capacitor or condenser fan motor. In either case, you'll want a professional to help you diagnose the situation further.
2. Listen For Your Compressor
While you're outside, you can also listen to hear if your compressor comes on. Make sure your thermostat is set low enough to request cooling, and wait for the sound of the compressor engaging. Even the quietest compressors should be fairly audible when the first turn on, although the sound will smooth out as it runs.
If you can't hear your compressor, don't panic. Electrical problems, such as a faulty capacitor or relay switch, can stop the compressor from running. Dirty condenser coils, a failing condenser fan, or refrigerant issues can overwork your compressor, causing it to overheat and shut down to protect itself from additional damage.
3. Listen for Dripping
You can also listen near your indoor air handler unit. While your evaporator will generate condensation as it reduces household humidity, this moisture should usually smoothly drain away. If you can hear dripping, it can signify a clogged condensate pan or even a frozen evaporator. These problems can prevent the evaporator from absorbing heat, increasing the air temperature at your vents.
If you can access your condensate drain, you may be able to check for clogs yourself. However, you shouldn't try to solve a frozen evaporator coil on your own. Coils often freeze due to other underlying conditions, such as refrigerant leaks. In these cases, you'll want a professional to help find and repair the root cause of the issue.
For more information about AC repair, contact a local professional.