Summer is here! The warm weather is great for days at the park or lazy afternoons on the beach, but there's nothing better than escaping the heat by coming home to a nice, cool house. Unfortunately, air conditioning problems can happen to even the best of us, and an air conditioning system on the fritz can leave you sweating and uncomfortable when all you want to do is chill out on the couch. Modern central air conditioning systems are complicated with many potential failure points, but the most common problems are often avoidable with proper maintenance and a little awareness. Keep reading to learn about three common ways that your AC system might fail you and what you can do to prevent it.
Clogged Air Filter
The Symptoms: A dirty, clogged air filter can cause a number of problems. If your filter is just a little bit long in the tooth, then the first issues you are likely to notice are reduced air flow. This is usually fairly obvious, as ducts that once produced a steady, strong stream of air will now seem significantly weaker. In some cases, this problem may first manifest in ducts that are farthest away from the blower unit. If the problem is allowed to go on for too long, you will likely notice your AC unit turning on and off more often or running for longer than it should. Eventually, you may even begin to have issues with allergies in your house as contaminants find their way into the ducting.
What You Can Do: Change your filter! Clogged filters are incredibly common and result in many calls to HVAC professionals. You can avoid this unnecessary expense by simply changing your filter on a regular schedule. In most cases, changing your filter once every month or two is fine.
Dirty Condenser Coils
The Symptoms: Your AC unit's condenser is a vital part of the entire system. This is where the heat that the refrigerant collected inside your home is ultimately released to the environment, allowing the cold, compressed refrigerant to travel back inside and begin to cycle anew. Problems with the condenser can be more serious than problems with a clogged filter, and you will usually notice them. In general, a condenser issue will result in the AC system blowing warm air or loud noises whenever the system turns on. In some cases, you may notice your outside unit physically shaking or banging whenever the system engages.
What You Can Do: Sometimes AC condensers fail and it is not the result of poor maintenance, but there is plenty you can do to make sure that your system stays in good shape. Your condenser coils are located in your outside unit, and regularly checking them for obvious signs of debris is a good start. If you notice the coils are getting dirty, shut off the unit and give them a good cleaning. Special products are made for cleaning condenser and evaporator coils and it doesn't hurt to make these a part of your routine. Pay special attention to icing on the condenser as well, as this may indicate a problem elsewhere in the system.
AC System Contaminants
The Symptoms: The job of your HVAC system's filter is to keep contaminants out of your home, but sometimes allergens and other debris manage to find their way in. This can be a subtle problem to detect, but if you find that you often feel under the weather at home or like your allergies are even worse indoors, then it may be worth considering the possibility that your filter isn't up to the task. Contaminants can also simply build up over time without proper cleaning, eventually reaching a point where they begin to affect your health.
What You Can Do: In addition to regular filter changes, consider having your AC system's ducts cleaned from time to time. Additionally, if you are particularly sensitive to allergens, consider installing a HEPA filter in your system or using a higher MERV filter.
While no complex HVAC system is ever 100% trouble free, proper maintenance and a little awareness can help you to maximize the life of your system while also minimizing the cost of AC repairs and maintenance.