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As with any other machinery or home appliance, air conditioning (AC) systems will eventually be affected by the wear and tear that comes with regular use and age. When they stop functioning at their fullest efficiency, most of us are at a complete loss, since we need them to help keep our homes comfortable throughout the year.
However, you can take some simple preventive measures to nip most of the commonly-experienced air conditioning issues in the bud, which reduce the occurrence of problems and thus allow you to enjoy the comfort of properly-functioning units.
Identifying & Solving Common Air Conditioning Problems
Here are some common issues that most people face with their AC units at some point or the other, as well as basic maintenance practices that you can follow to keep them at bay:
1. Running AC Unit Doesn’t Cool Properly
Since just about every part of an air AC unit is primarily designed for cooling, there can be a number of reasons causing this issue:
Dirt, soot and debris restrict the airflow through the unit, causing blockages and reducing its cooling capacity.
Solution: Check the filters periodically and clean or replace them every three months, or as per the manufacturer’s recommendations. You could also set up a regular cleaning and maintenance schedule with a professional AC service provider who will be able to advise you on the required frequency of cleaning.
Another likely cause is the heat exchanger on the condenser unit getting clogged, which reduces the unit’s ability to cool and reduces efficiency.
Solution: Clean the radiator on the external unit (on the part facing outside for single-unit ACs). Be sure to disconnect the power before cleaning and leave it off for a while, until the unit is completely dry. The fins are extremely sharp, so make sure you use protective gloves and proper equipment for this task.
The refrigerant gas is the medium that removes excess heat from the room, so if there isn’t enough, your air conditioner won’t be able to cool properly.
Solution: Leaks of refrigerant fluid can often be prevented by regularly cleaning the entire unit and scheduling an annual maintenance regimen. If you suspect low refrigerant pressure, it’s usually best to call a professional rather than attempting to tackle the problem yourself.
2. Run Cycles are Too Short or Too Long
Inconsistent running cycles are one of the most common problems reported in air conditioners. They are often caused by dirt or debris caught in the outdoor unit (condenser) or the indoor unit (evaporator), which can cause multiple issues:
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Dirt causes the thermostats (temperature sensors) in the unit to cool or heat up rapidly, leading to shorter or longer run cycles. In extreme cases, the evaporator coils can even ‘ice-over.’
Apart from the lower efficiency and cooling capacity, the unit struggles to maintain an appropriate temperature, which increases wear and as a result, effectively reduces its service lifespan.
Solution (for both issues): Clean the affected areas of the evaporator and the condenser thoroughly and regularly. Periodic cleaning does more than improve the operating efficiency and cooling capacity; it also increases the life of the system, reducing the need for frequent repairs.
3. Excessive Energy Use Due to Poor Operating Motors
Every time a mechanical part moves, there is friction, increasing exponentially by insufficient lubrication. Excessive friction has a multifold effect on your AC unit, and here’s how that happens:
Moving parts must work harder and run at reduced efficiency, so more heat is produced, and all these factors increase power consumption. Wear and tear is also higher, so the life of the unit decreases.
Solution: Lubricate moving parts periodically, as part of your regular maintenance schedule. Also, don’t vary the AC’s thermostat too much, since it increases wear and reduces efficiency.
4. Electric Controls Failure Due to Vulnerable Connections
Frequent on-off cycles can wear out the fan controls and compressor in your air conditioner, and the effect is compounded if you have an oversized unit installed in your home. Faulty electrical connections may also result in more serious issues like:
- Corrosion of terminals, plugs and wires
- Electrical sparking or ‘crackling’
- Lower service lifespan
Solution: Get a technician to inspect the electrical contacts and check whether the connections are secure, every time the unit is serviced. If you suspect a problem between scheduled maintenance visits, call a professional for an inspection instead of letting the unit run as is, since that can cause further damage!
Avoid Discomfort from AC Systems Failing
Most air conditioner problems faced by homeowners can have multiple causes instead of just stemming from a single issue. Most of the common issues typically occur as a result of faulty installation, poor service procedures or inadequate maintenance schedules, all of which can lead to:
- Leaky ducts
- Lower efficiency
- Reduced airflow
- Inconsistent performance, and many more
As a homeowner, you can reduce the likelihood of these issues by verifying a contractor’s reputation and qualifications before you hire them. Check for references online, ask them for customer testimonials and look up their business registration with your local homeowner’s association or the BBB.
It’s essential to note that most AC problems can be corrected during scheduled maintenance, so be sure to get air conditioning units serviced regularly, even if they seem to be working properly.
While it may seem like AC units are a pain, they do provide the type of comfort we all deserves in our homes. Knowing how to fix each and every one ensures a comfortable home for years to come.