The 10 Most Common Spring Air Conditioning Problems... and How You Can Prevent Them!

By John Ward     1. Tripped Breaker One of the most common causes of no-cool calls is a tripped breaker. Breakers are designed to protect your system and your home. Tripped breakers can be an indication of a larger problem. Sometimes the fix is simple, like a bad breaker, loose wire or a bad capacitor. However, if not addressed, simple problems can lead to expensive repairs. Our experienced technicians can check your system and make sure it's operating properly. 2. Dirty Filter If you have a 1" disposable filter, it should be replaced at least every other month. It's out of sight and out of mind, so it's easy to forget. Yet, every year we go on service calls where the A/C isn't cooling and the cause is restricted air flow from a very dirty filter. Dirty filters reduce indoor air quality, make a home less comfortable and can result in frozen indoor coils, leading to serious repairs. 3. Refrigerant Leaks An air conditioning system is a sealed system. It should never leak refrigerant. When it does, bad things happen. Efficiency falls and electricity use rises. Your air conditioner may not cool. The coil may freeze. The compressor could become damaged. Plus, refrigerants are greenhouse gases. We use a variety of tools to track down leaks. Often the problem is as simple as a bad valve or a weakened connection between a fitting and tubing. 4. Switch Turned Off Some heating and A/C systems have a wall switch at the indoor unit for safety and convenience that can be confused with a light switch. If this is accidentally switched off or left off during mild weather, your air conditioner will not start. Always check this switch before calling for service. 5. Thermostat Problems Some thermostats must be toggled between heating and cooling modes. If it is in the wrong position or breaks, your A/C won't start. Quality digital thermostats rarely fail. Some of the cheaper ones available from the big box stores might. What goes wrong? The switch might break, a voltage spike might cause a malfunction, and so on. 6. Clogged Drain Line Air conditioners pull moisture out of humid air while lowering the temperature. The moisture is typically drained out of your home through your plumbing system. A drain pan should be present as a back up with a secondary condensate drain. Algae can grow in these lines, clogging them up. This can lead to water damage in your home. We clear the drain lines as part of our Spring A/C tune-up, or you can have it done separately as needed. 7. Contactor A contactor is an electromechanical switch in your air conditioner. Sometimes the coating on a contactor will wear off and it will stick, causing the outside unit to run continuously, which is expensive! At times ants are attracted to the electricity and get caught between contactors blocking them from closing. If this happens, the outside unit won't run. Contactors can also fail electrically. We check these as part of a Spring tune-up, clean the surface of the contactors if needed, and recommend replacement if failure appears imminent. 8. Dirty Evaporator Coil The evaporator coil is located inside a home. Liquid refrigerant is pumped into this coil to evaporate and draw heat from the air being blown across the coil. Periodically it needs to be cleaned or dust and build up will restrict heat transfer capabilities and reduce air flow down the ducts. Dirty coils can increase operating costs while reducing comfort. 9. Dirty Condenser Coil The condenser coil is located outside of a home. The compressor pulls refrigerant gas from the evaporator and pumps it through the outdoor coil where it condenses into a liquid as the condensing unit fan pulls air across the coil. A dirty or restricted coil is inefficient, increasing electricity usage and reducing cooling capacity. We wash, clean, and if needed, comb the condenser coil as part of the a tune-up. 10. Duct Leaks Your heating and air conditioning system adds and removes heat to the duct system. The duct system is tasked with delivering it to the occupied areas of your home. If the ducts that supply air to the living space leak and are located outside of the living space, you're essentially paying to cool the outdoors! If the ducts that return air leak, you pull in unconditioned, unfiltered air. Duct leakage is one of the leading causes of inefficient A/C operation. Leaks can range from duct penetration to split seams to completely disconnected ducts. Repairing individual leaks is not expensive. It's the leaks that cost you the most money on your energy bill! John Ward has owned and operated Applewood Plumbing Heating & Electric for more than 35 years. He is a master plumber and recognized industry leader for his knowledge and ethical business practices. Visit us today at