Air Conditioning Repair FAQ: How to Diagnose & Repair Air Conditioners
• The air conditioning system will not operate at all: power may be off, controls may be improperly set, or the system may be inoperative. (Confirm that the system has electrical power and that all of its control switches and thermostat are set to "on" and "cooling" positions.
• The air conditioning system operates but does not produce cool air, or not enough cool air.
• The air conditioning system operates but there is not enough cool air flow at the registers..)
• The compressor was short-cycling, that is, turning itself on and off rapidly, perhaps every few seconds or minutes rather than producing a normal on-cycle of 10 minutes or longer.
• The compressor was noisy, during startup, indicating an operating problem.
• The compressor squealed at startup, indicating that service may be needed promptly to prevent possibly costly damage to the system. This repair/maintenance item should not be deferred.
• Inside cooling or evaporator coil defects that can be seen by eye: dirty coil, blocked coil, frost on the coil, improperly sized evaporator coil, improper evaporator or cooling coil placement in the system.
Air flow across the air conditioning evaporator coil: if airflow is weak for any reason (dirty coil, duct system defects, blower fan defects, dirty blower squirrel cage fan), the air conditioning system will not operate properly. Some experts write that there should be between 350 and 400 cubic feet of air per minute (CFM) moving across the evaporator (cooling) coil for each ton of air conditioner capacity. (One ton = 12,000 BTUH so if your AC unit is a 24,000 BTUH unit it is a "two ton" unit and needs to see 700 to 800 CFM of air across the evaporator coil. Some home inspectors and air conditioning service technicians carry a small airflow meter that can actually measure this number with fair accuracy. (The same tool is nice for comparing air flow and balancing air flow at various building supply ducts and registers.
Evaporator coil cleaning often requires cutting refrigerant lines, removal of the coil and other components for cleaning, and re installation, pulling a vacuum on the refrigerant lines, and recharge with refrigerant. Such service and repair may involve significant expense, although there are some "in place" cleaning methods using foams and sprays that are a simpler procedure.
• Dirty air conditioning filters, - a source of increased operating costs. Very dirty filters can eventually block the fan itself, leading to more costly repairs. The filters should be changed monthly when the system is in use. Failure to properly filter dust from the return air supply can load the fan or evaporator coil with dust and prevent proper system operation. Installing a filter is normally a minor expense. Dirty, blocked evaporator coils can result in improper system operation, very low output temperatures, low air flow (compensated sometimes by increased fan speed), and sometimes frost on the coil and failure of system components.
• The air conditioner fuse keeps blowing or the circuit breaker trips: could mean a compressor which needs repair or replacement, or it could mean a problem with the unit's electrical wiring, such as use of aluminum wiring combined with bad electrical connections. Have your service technician check the condition of the electrical circuit first (that's cheaper than a new air conditioning compressor) and then check the condition of the compressor.