When the air conditioner does not turn on when we need it most, it can set us into a bit of a panic especially when we have come to rely on it so much. We simply expect the AC to perform for us without fail, so when it does fail, there are five steps you can take to get it running again.
1. Starting with the obvious and easiest, check your thermostat.
The AC thermostat is your point of control inside the dwelling. The first thing to check is if the unit is set to COOL. Keep in mind that you must have the temperature setting at least three degrees lower than the existing room temperature, otherwise, it simply will not engage.
If those two settings are good, check next for power. Some units are battery-powered, which means from time to time the batteries need replacing. If it is not battery-powered, there could be an issue with the wiring. Rodents many times will chew right through the wiring. This, of course, is likely a chore you want to leave to the experts if this is indeed your issue.
2. Look for your AC shutfof switch in case someone has inadvertently turned it off.
HVAC systems are commonly installed with a separate ON/OFF switch. This seems simple enough and hardly figures into a homeowner’s equation since one would rarely, if ever, consider switching this incredibly useful machine off. Consider for those who need a simple way to turn the unit off, such as your HVAC professional technician, this switch is a way to keep from running out to the breaker panel in the middle of performing repairs.
It will typically be situated within the AC unit or very nearby for ease of access. It looks just like a light switch. When you find it, you may have to test which way is up as the ON position is not always up. It could be on when in the down position.
3. Check your air filter.
Just as we expect the AC to keep running, we very often neglect to replace or clean the air filter. If you are kind to your AC, this is something you do on a regular repeating schedule like every three months. Your AC unit relies on airflow, so it stands to reason that a clogged air filter prevents the air from moving over the coil. That is how the air is cooled, which then gets delivered to all the living spaces.
The filter is typically situated within the air return located behind a big grille cover where the warm air from inside the house is sucked in. Some filters can be cleaned while others are replaced. The choice is yours as to what type of filters you prefer, as long as you make it part of your duties to see them regularly. When in doubt, replace your filter with a new one. Your AC will still run with clogged filters though it will underperform and can create further issues that could eventually require repair.
4. Check to see if your AC unit has caused the circuit breaker to trip.
Circuit breakers are designed to trip or flip off as a safety feature when there is a power surge. There are a few reasons why you can experience a power surge without even knowing, for example, at the source, such as the power grid. You can also have a surge if any high-amp appliance or power tool is used at the same time the AC is running.
You will have to visit your home’s main power panel typically situated on the outside of the building, but it could be inside as well. You will need to determine which one is assigned to your AC unit. You can usually find it because it is the switch that has tripped, but this is not always true. Once you find it, you want to make sure it is OFF and wait a few seconds before turning it back to the ON position. Then check to see if your AC is once again engaged.
A word of warning: If you find this switch keeps tripping, you may have a bigger issue. A circuit that trips repeatedly is a warning that something is not right. It is intended to prevent a bigger hazard such as a fire. You may find that a visit from the professionals could reveal a conflict such as incorrect amperage. Best to leave this in the hands of the pros to advise and correct.
5. Check the drain pan.
All AC units will produce condensation. There is a drain pan to collect the runoff. This is one of the areas that should be regularly checked especially if you have regular maintenance checks with your HVAC professionals. They will use compressed air to clear out drains even though you can do this yourself.
A drain pan that is full will trigger a float switch that automatically turns your unit off. Until you physically turn it back on at the source of power by replacing the float switch into a DOWN position, your AC unit will not run.
It is handy to remember that at least 70 percent of the time you can get your AC running again if you just check these five steps. When you have ruled out these possibilities, you can take comfort in knowing your call to the experts is merited.