Timberline Blog

Why Is My AC Not Working Right? 6 Symptoms and Solutions.

August 23, 2022 by Timberline

If you enjoy a cool, comfortable living or working space on a hot Colorado summer day—and who doesn’t?—it can be a little concerning when your air conditioning system isn’t operating properly. For example, the system comes on but produces little or no cooling. Or, you simply aren’t getting any response from the outdoor AC unit.

Air Conditioner Repairman

While it’s true that you’ll need a trained HVAC technician to diagnose and address most AC problems, knowing what various symptoms point to can be helpful. At a minimum, that knowledge can make you feel better able to discuss the situation with the tech. And in some instances, there are issues you can handle without assistance.

Learn more about common AC symptoms, their causes, and solutions below.

Insights on AC Issues

Six of the most common indicators of an AC problem are:

1. There’s little/no cooling. One cause of little or no cooling is a lack of power to the furnace (inside your home or business) or the condensing unit (outside). This goes without saying, of course, but confirming those system components have power is an excellent first step to take.

Another cause of an AC system producing minimal, if any, cooling is a problem with the thermostat. Something as simple as dead or dying batteries in a unit that requires them can cause the thermostat to run intermittently or not at all. But the fix is simple also: Try replacing the battery.

2. A buzzing/hissing sound is coming from the outside unit. This often indicates a frozen suction line (i.e., a large refrigerant line). Changing the air filter and running the unit in “fan only” mode can help defrost the coil, although the issue may come back and require a technician visit.

3. The outside unit stops abruptly. In Colorado’s dry climate, debris, “cotton” from trees, etc., gets stirred up by winds and can clog the outdoor coil of an AC system. When that happens, the system can “trip” due to high “head pressure.” If you’re comfortable shutting the power off to your system, you can do so and then spray it with a hose to clean the coil and reduce the head pressure.

4. The outdoor fan works, but there is little/no cooling. If the outdoor coil is clean, but the compressor won’t run, this can indicate that the compressor or starter has gone bad.

5. The system is powered up but doesn’t respond. This can mean the drain line on the indoor unit is blocked. Furnaces typically have an integrated “wet switch” that prevents the system from cooling when water is detected to avoid flooding.

6. Unusual sounds are coming from indoor or outdoor units. AC systems vibrate slightly under normal operating conditions. Over time, that small amount of movement can cause parts or wiring to loosen. This can make physical components vibrate more loudly and electrical connections arc and produce a buzzing sound.

How To Prevent AC Problems

Like all mechanical devices, AC units suffer wear and tear over time. Eventually, parts fail, and a technician must repair or replace them.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers estimates the lifespan of a typical furnace/air conditioner to be 15 years. And even before that time, you can expect issues to arise. However, in Colorado, where we don’t have problems associated with high humidity, salty air, etc., a well-maintained AC system can run for 20-30 years or more. However, achieving that type of longevity requires excellent care and probably a little luck!

There are two types of maintenance: user tasks and technician tasks. As a system owner or user, you should change filters according to the manufacturer’s guidelines or a Timberline technician’s recommendation. You should also keep the outdoor coil clear of dirt and debris or have us handle that task for you.

That leads to the second type of care, which is preventative maintenance performed by our team. In a relatively short annual visit, we can thoroughly inspect your AC system and provide services or make tweaks that may not seem like much but can significantly extend the system’s life. These inspections can also ensure that minor issues don’t fester and become major repairs.

It’s easy for a single AC component fix or replacement to cost $1,000-$2,000 or much more. And the way AC units are designed, it’s not uncommon for one unaddressed issue to be the domino that topples and initiates a cascade of problems. So, a proactive approach to AC system maintenance is essential.

When in Doubt, Call Timberline Mechanical

Air conditioning systems are complex and costly. They can also be dangerous for people who aren’t trained technicians. Consequently, if the fix to a problem isn’t clear-cut and straightforward (like the thermostat battery example above), it’s best to call Timberline and have one of our techs take a look.

Let’s say you see ice on the outdoor unit. You might understandably believe that chipping the ice away will help the system run more effectively. However, doing that can damage the coil leading to a very costly repair.

Or, perhaps you’re handy with cars, feel that expertise might help you diagnose your AC problem, and decide to disassemble your outdoor AC unit and take a look inside. In that scenario, not only are you risking damaging the unit, but you’re also exposing yourself to the risk of a serious injury from the voltage, moving parts, etc.

You may not want to incur a repair expense, but calling Timberline and having an expert diagnose the problem is a safer and more cost-effective approach in the long run.

Make the Call To Get the Ball Rolling

Life can be hectic, and it’s easy to say, “It’s unpleasantly warm in here, but I’m busy, so I’ll deal with this issue later.” But too often, “later” never comes, at least not until the AC system suffers a catastrophic failure.

The good news is that all it takes to get insights from a skilled AC technician is to call Timberline Mechanical and schedule a service appointment. There’s no better feeling than seeing an expert who knows a system inside and out roll up their sleeves and get to work, because you know they’ll uncover and correct any problems or perform required maintenance quickly and efficiently.

Contact Timberline Mechanical today to learn more about our residential, commercial and industrial HVAC services.

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