Air conditioner units are reliable by design, but problems do occasionally arise. When AC units experience a great amount of wear and tear, their parts start to break down and cause issues over time. Even in Columbia, Maryland, the lack of air conditioning during the summer is simply not an option for homeowners. Thankfully, in many cases, AC problems can be addressed by fixing or replacing a broken part.
Common HVAC Issues
When your air conditioning unit starts to degrade and fails to efficiently cool your home, one of these parts is most likely the culprit:
HVAC units contain both start capacitors and run capacitors, each of which plays an important part in providing cool air to the home. Start capacitors provide the necessary torque required for the compressor, while run capacitors maintain a constant speed when the unit motors are running. Damaged capacitors mean that the HVAC unit can’t function properly at all.
Fuses ensure that the HVAC’s motor or compressor unit doesn’t get overheated. Unfortunately, fuses can bust, resulting in a motor malfunction. Busted fuses are such common issues with AC units that the breaker is often the first thing technicians will check for when a homeowner is experiencing HVAC issues.
HVAC units contain three contractors, one each for the condenser fan motor, blower motor, and compressor. These contractors establish the necessary electrical connection by engaging their components, but damaged contractors fail to produce any electricity, which prevents the unit’s motor from starting altogether.
Your HVAC unit’s gas valve is responsible for regulating the flow of gas throughout the unit. Gas valves can become corroded, which disrupts the process. In order to fix the issue, you’ll need to have the gas valve replaced.
HVAC drain lines can become clogged with dirt, debris, and algae over time. When this happens, the drain pan fills up, resulting in water damage.
One of the most inexpensive AC issues to address is the air filter. Filters become dirty and clogged with regular use, so it’s necessary to replace them every one to three months. Clogged filters decrease air flow and result in poor indoor air quality, but more than that, they can actually cause the unit itself to freeze up, which is a costlier issue to deal with.
You’re probably more than familiar with your HVAC system’s thermostat. Before you call a technician to come address any AC issues, see if your thermostat is functioning properly first. Certain settings or features could be disabled or the thermostat could be turned off altogether. Try resetting the thermostat and see if the AC issues resolve.
AC refrigerant is necessary to cool the air in the unit, but refrigerant leaks can occur. In fact, leaks in the condenser or evaporator coil are often irreparable, meaning that a new HVAC upgrade may be in order. Other types of leaks, however, can be addressed by HVAC professionals. Often, when the existing refrigerant is removed and the unit charged, the AC unit can return to its normal operations.
Depending on the type of unit you own, your evaporator coil may be positioned separate from the unit or integrated into it. Damaged evaporator coils require professional attention, but they can easily be fixed.
As a homeowner, you should regularly clean your AC unit’s condenser coil to ensure it’s free from debris. Condenser coils are exposed to the elements, leaving them vulnerable to weather damage, which is why you’ll need to inspect the unit regularly to look for anything that’s out of place. If the problem goes beyond a dirty coil, an HVAC technician should be called in.
As the main part of your air conditioner, the compressor ensures that the entire unit functions properly with the right amount of refrigerant. Unfortunately, compressors can overheat when the unit lacks refrigerant, causing the unit to break down. Compressors can also fill with refrigerant if they’re overcharged, resulting in something called “liquid slugging.” This is when the liquid refrigerant enters the compressor and mixes with its lubricating oil.
Listen for Strange Air Conditioner Sounds
In some cases, you may be able to check your HVAC unit for broken or malfunctioning parts, but it does require a basic understanding of how the unit operates and where each part is located. If you’re not familiar with the components, try listening to the unit first to see if you hear any humming, rattling, screeching, or repeated clicking sounds. Although all air conditioners make noise, any noise that sounds “off” is a good indication that there’s something wrong internally.
Rattling, Banging, or Clanking
Rattling noises from the fan unit or compressor can indicate loose hardware. If the noise is particularly loud, it could even mean you’re faced with a failing motor. Rattling sounds can also indicate issues with the motor or blower assembly. By contrast, a softer humming sound is an early warning sign that your motor or capacitor is starting to go bad, which is why becoming familiar with your AC unit’s normal operating sounds is so important.
Screeching or Squealing
High-pitched noises from the unit’s blower motor are indicative of motor bearing problems or a bad belt. If the problem lies in the belt, you’re in luck; they’re generally not that difficult to repair, but they should be replaced before breaking. Once belts break, the blower will no longer turn.
Clicking noises in an HVAC unit are noticeable when you turn the unit on or off, and this is normal. Repeated clicking, however, could mean there’s a problem with a defective relay or that an electrical control is failing.
A fast-paced thwapping noise tends to occur when there’s debris stuck in the unit’s blower blades or housing. This will sometimes sound like a playing card attached to the spokes of a bike tire. In many cases, a thwapping sound doesn’t indicate a critical problem, but when ignored long enough, the stuck object can cause the unit’s motor to wear out abnormally fast, resulting in costlier repairs.
Other Ways to Inspect Your AC Unit
Strange odors are another early warning sign that your AC is on the fritz or its parts are degrading. In fact, it’s so common to have strange smells alert you to AC problems that there’s an official name for this phenomenon: Dirty Sock Syndrome.
Foul odors coming from your AC unit or vents should never be ignored, as they not only indicate something wrong with the unit, but they could also be dangerous to your family’s health. If you notice any foul or pungent smells coming out of the air conditioner vents, it’s likely that the wire insulation has burned out. Musty odors, naturally, indicate mold growing inside the ductwork.
Another way to check for AC problems is to visually inspect the unit. Do you see the fan spinning properly? If not, the capacitor may be degraded. A good way to test the capacitor is to give the stopped fan blade a gentle push. If it takes off on its own and continues to spin, you’re probably dealing with a bad start capacitor.
Keep in mind, though, that’s it’s not advisable to go poking around in your HVAC unit. Doing so can void your warranty and result in more damage, so while there are certain things you can do to visually inspect the unit yourself, it’s best to leave interior inspections and repairs up to the professionals.
Be Informed When Calling for Service
While you can always schedule an HVAC inspection regardless of the problem you’re experiencing with your AC, being informed of common issues like the above can help you better describe the situation when making your appointment. Again, this is why it’s a smart idea to get to know your AC unit’s normal sounds and operations — so you can spot potential problems early.
Don’t ignore common AC warning signs until it’s too late. Contact Griffith Energy Services at 888-474-3391 to schedule an air conditioning maintenance or repair service. Our expert team of highly trained and certified technicians will have your AC unit back in working order in no time.
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