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Air Conditioner Troubleshooting (DIY)

Your air conditioning system is complex, but if it is not cooling right, sometimes simple air conditioner troubleshooting can identify a problem. There are several steps you can take before calling your HVAC technician. These may help you to pinpoint and even fix a simple issue. Try these air conditioner troubleshooting tips to see if they fix the problem first!

air conditioner troubleshooting

Power Issues

First, if your air conditioning unit is not coming on at all, check the breaker that controls the unit in your electrical breaker box. When a breaker is overloaded, it causes the breaker to trip, not allowing power to the unit. If you find a tripped breaker, switch it to off, then back to on. See if that solves the problem. If the breaker continues to trip, you will need to call your HVAC technician.

If your thermostat is not working properly, check the batteries in the thermostat to see that they are good. Replace the batteries in the thermostat, if necessary. Then, if the thermostat or unit is still not working, batteries are not likely the issue.

If your unit is okay through the first two checks, you may want to check the condensate drain. Clogs in the drain can trip an overflow switch, which shuts the unit off to prevent water damage from condensate overflow.

Cooling Issues

If your unit is running, but not cooling your home, you may need a different approach to air conditioning troubleshooting. First, check your air filters. Ensure that all filters in your home are clean and allow air through. Clogged air filters make your system work harder. As temperatures outside get higher, the system just cannot keep up. If your filters are dirty, replace them with clean filters and give your system time to try to catch up.

air conditioner filter

If the filters are not the problem, check both your outdoor unit and your attic/indoor unit. Look for anything that may be blocking airflow or ice forming on components of your system. If your outside unit is blocked with debris, just a simple garden hose rinse should take care it. Ice forming on the indoor unit can be indicative of other issues, and your HVAC technician can address those. However, if you do encounter ice on one of the components to your system, turn your A/C to “off.” Then turn the fan to “on” to defrost the evaporator coil.


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These are a few of the issues that you can address right away for a possible fix to a minor issue with your air conditioning system. It is still a good idea to call your HVAC company to be sure there is nothing in your situation that might be a red flag for a trained technician. Sometimes, though, air conditioner troubleshooting can save you some time and money by solving small problems yourself!