On a hot summer day the last thing you want to experience is an air-conditioning related problem. The following tips will help you to diagnose your A/C, and quickly return your cooling unit to peak operating condition
It is 90-degrees out and humid. You've been at work all day and you are now just pulling into the driveway. The thought of the cool, shaded interior of your home and an ice cold glass of water are almost too tempting right now to handle. But then you open the front door and are smacked in the face by a wall of super-heated, stagnant air that has had been waiting for you all day long. You check your thermostat and it's on. You make sure it is set to 'cool,' and it is. So what is the problem? Cooling concerns are rampant over the summer months, and it can often take a week or more to get a repair person out to the house to diagnose the problem. If there are parts that need to be ordered or repairs made, it could be even longer. If your A/C isn't cooling, you may be able to fix it yourself. If not, at least you'll eliminate some of the variables that contribute to poor A/C performance or lack of cooling.
Clean that Condenser!
One of the most common maintenance issues that can lead to a lack of cooling with an A/C unit is a dirty condenser. This is a relatively simple fix, so it pays to understand how to clean the condenser, and how to approach the process with safety in mind. After all, you'll be working around a fan blade that is powered by a 240-volt power source. No margin for error here, folks.
Step one is to disconnect all power to the outside condenser unit. You'll need to switch off the 240-volt power supply to the unit, and also kill any breaker switches on the main panel that feed the A/C unit. Once this is done, wait a few minutes to ensure that any latent charges have a chance to dissipate. Next, simply remove the top cover and any protective side panels from the entire unit. You will see the condenser coils and the flat fins or panels that surround the condenser. Using a brush with soft, non-abrasive bristles, simply brush away any dirt or debris, then vacuum it up using a soft bristle brush attachment.
Step two involves washing the condenser with a garden hose. You'll need to first cover the motor and any exposed electrical wires with a garbage bag for protection, then use the hose to clean the coils and fins. Do not use a high-pressure source of water like a pressure washer as you'll likely cause damage to the unit. After it has had a chance to air dry, reattach the protective side panels and the top grate to put the unit back together. Wait a few minutes and then re-apply the power source. Turn on the thermostat and give the A/C unit a try. If the condenser was the issue, you'll soon feel cold air coming out of the registers.
Cleaning the Condenser Didn't Help
If the condenser cleaning didn't solve the problem you'll then want to check the filters on your HVAC ductwork. Some may say, 'why wasn't this the first thing we should have checked, before taking the time to clean the condenser?' Though checking the filters is an easier job, the assumption is that the filters are being replaced appropriately anyway. If not, simply swapping out filters can help the unit flow more efficiently, and can help the A/C unit overcome excessively hot days.
If this doesn't help either, you likely have a refrigerant issue and should seek the help of a qualified HVAC repair company to recharge your system. This isn't overly costly, but it needs to be done by an outfit that understands the proper way to recharge a system and capture any escaping refrigerant. Make sure that your filters are in great shape, clean that condenser, and if that doesn't work, simply call a local HVAC specialist to help you get your interior temperature back to normal.