A heating and cooling system is an important part of any modern home. We rely on these systems to keep our indoor temperatures comfortable when the external weather is hotter or colder. These are complex systems and they will lose performance and energy efficiency every year after they are installed as new. For this reason, it’s recommended that an HVAC system is professionally serviced prior to each heating and cooling season. But, there are certain HVAC problems that can be tackled by people with no special skills or tools. In this article, we will take a closer look at three DIY HVAC fixes that you can try to get your system running again.
When to Call a Professional HVAC Technician
Before we get started, it’s important to understand that you shouldn’t go ahead with a DIY approach if you’re not comfortable with the concepts. It is tempting to go ahead and try a DIY fix to save money, but there are inherent risks to consider. It’s very easy to make a mistake and cause more damage that will be expensive to fix.
If you feel overwhelmed at any point, it’s a good idea to stop and call your local HVAC specialist. They have the training, experience, and tools to identify and fix a problem quickly. That said, if you want to proceed let’s take a look at three DIY fixes in more detail.
1. The Air Conditioner is Not Blowing Cold Air
If the AC system is not blowing cold air there are three possible causes to investigate:
If you set the thermostat to a cooler temperature and place your hand on the vent, you should feel the colder air. If you can’t, it’s natural to feel a tinge of panic because the AC system isn’t working. But, it may surprise you that this may be a very simple fix and it’s a common problem when the cooling season begins.
Most of the time this problem is the thermostat and not the AC equipment. Many people forget to change their thermostat for the warmer weather ahead, they panic and call an HVAC company for no reason.
Check the thermostat, it should be set to “Cool” and “Auto” to get the best cooling performance. If the thermostat is set to “On” rather than “Auto” it will run the blower fan constantly even if cooling is taking place in the home. This is a waste of energy and it will drive up your energy bills over an entire summer.
The air vents need to be kept clean of obstructions, such as tall furniture, drapes, stored boxes, and other clutter. The louvers and registers need to be kept at least partially open to get the treated air flowing throughout the home. Many people close the vents in rooms that are not in regular use to save money. This is a false economy and in reality, it actually increases the energy bills.
The Air Filter
The air filter is an often overlooked and vitally important component in your HVAC system. Every day the air is cycled through the air filter multiple times and contrary to popular belief its primary purpose is not to improve the indoor air quality (IAQ). The air filter prevents airborne contaminants from entering the system where they could cause damage to sensitive components. When the air filter is clogged with dirt, dust, and pet hair it will lower the airflow considerably leading to overheating and overworking. This can lead to an unexpected repair bill and higher energy bills because the HVAC system is working harder. To prevent this problem, change the air filter regularly and if you cannot remember when you last did it, do it now.
2. The HVAC System is Making Strange Noises
During normal operations, the HVAC system should run pretty quietly in the background. But, if you can hear clanking or rattling noises it’s a sure sign that something is wrong. This may be a DIY fix opportunity and you will need a screwdriver and a pair of work gloves to tackle the problem. Turn off the power to the HVAC system and go to the outdoor condenser unit. Use the screwdriver to remove the cover and take a look inside.
If you can see debris, such as dead leaves, sticks, rocks, and other materials, put on the work gloves and remove them. The gloves will protect your hands from accidental injury if they come into contact with the fan blades. While you have the cover removed check the bolts, screws, and internal components to make sure they are secure. If you see a loose screw or bolt tighten it, but take care to avoid over tightening which can thread the fitting. If you can hear other strange noises, such as: buzzing, banging, or grinding it’s time to contact your local HVAC specialist because these are signs of complex problems.
3. The AC System is Dripping Water
During normal operations, the air conditioner system acts as a dehumidifier and it’s normal to see a little moisture around the equipment. But if you can see dripping water or a puddle under the indoor AC unit this is a sign that something is wrong. There is a drain pan in the AC unit that’s designed to capture the condensation and move it into the drain.
If this component is clogged with soggy debris or mold growth, it can cause an overflow. The connected drain line may be clogged too and these obstructions need to be removed to restore proper draining functionality. Turn off the breaker that supplies power to the AC system and use a shop vac or old towel to mop up the water. Then check the drain pan for obstructions, remove them, and clean it with warm soapy water. If the drain line is clogged, unscrew it and suck out the obstruction with a shop vac. If this doesn’t work, flush out the clog with warm water and repeat the process as necessary. If the problem persists, there may be an underlying issue that cannot be fixed with a DIY approach.
If you want to schedule some essential HVAC maintenance, contact your local heating and cooling specialist.