Once the summer arrives and our homes heat up, we rely on our air conditioning systems to make our indoor spaces comfortable. But, if the AC is failing or underperforming, it can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience. Contrary to popular thought, most AC components don’t tend to fail at the drop of a hat, and the failure is usually preceded by some type of warning sign. In this article, we will examine five air conditioner warning signs and explain what they mean.
- Strange Noises
During normal operations, your air conditioner should be pretty quiet, and you shouldn’t hear any loud or strange noises. But, if you can hear sounds, such as: banging, hissing, rattling, screeching, and even screaming, there is a problem. The source of these noises could be something trivial such as a busted bearing or a worn out fan belt. But, very loud noises can be caused by a failing compressor, and this can be expensive to fix or repair. A new compressor or coil could cost as much as a third of the price of a brand new air conditioning system. For this reason, many people simply replace their system to get new components with longer warranties. This makes good sense if you have an older air conditioning system that would need replacing in the next few years anyway. If you hear these types of noises, it’s a good idea to shut down your air conditioning and contact your local HVAC specialist.
- A Lack of Cooling Performance
If your air conditioner is reaching a decade old, it will be less effective at cooling your home. If your AC system is running and you can barely feel the difference, you are simply wasting energy and money for no reason. A lack of cooling can also be caused by a malfunctioning blower fan that’s failing to push the treated air throughout the home. If your cooled air cannot reach the areas where it is needed, this is a total waste of your money. Another possible cause could be an air leak in your duct system where the treated air is escaping. Even a small crack can cause a lack of performance, and it can be tricky to locate these leaks. If you suspect that your cooling performance has been compromised, it’s time to call a local HVAC specialist to investigate further. They can find the cause of the problem and recommend a solution to get your home cool again.
- Warm Air from the Ducts
If the air coming from your ducts is warm, this could be caused by a failing evaporator coil or a lack of refrigerant in your air conditioning system. Go to the outdoor unit and take a look at the evaporator coils, and if they are covered with ice, they need expert attention. If there is a lack of refrigerant, the performance of your system will be compromised. Think of the refrigerant as the circulatory system that removes heat from your home, and if there isn’t enough of it, the heat cannot be removed efficiently. Some people attempt to recharge their refrigerant to save money, but this is a bad idea. Mixing different types of refrigerant cause the system to be less efficient, and it’s easy to make a mistake. Contact a local HVAC specialist, and they can check your evaporator coils and recharge your refrigerant for you.
- Rising Energy Bills
Unless you keep a strict record of your energy bills, you may not realize an increase at first. A rise in your cooling bills is usually caused by a lack of efficiency as your cooling equipment ages. Every year your system will become less efficient, and the only way to counteract this process is with a regularly scheduled service. But, eventually, even this will not be enough to keep the air conditioning system at an acceptable level of efficiency. Most HVAC specialists will advise homeowners to upgrade their air conditioning systems before they reach this point. A failing AC system has to work harder to cool your home, and this causes the equipment to be overworked. This also increases the amount of energy used, and in hotter months, you can see significant spikes in your energy usage caused by attempts to cool your home. If your cooling bills are rising every year, it’s probably time to upgrade to a new AC system with better performance and energy efficiency.
- The AC System Turns On and Off Quickly
This is known as “short cycling” in the air conditioning industry, and it’s a big problem. When the AC system turns on and off again a few minutes later, it’s often caused by an air conditioner that is too large for the home. Every AC system needs to be carefully sized for the home with a complex load calculation. This uses a formula based on the size, layout, insulation levels, number of windows, home orientation, and other factors related to that specific home. The load calculation helps the HVAC specialist to calculate the type and size of AC system that will work best for that home. When an AC system is short cycling, it cools the space down too quickly, and this causes the system to turn off shortly after starting. Cooling down a home fast may sound like a good idea, but in practice, it doesn’t work well, and it causes other problems. Short cycling places considerable strain on the cooling equipment leading to frequent repairs and even component failures. Another cause of short cycling is a lack of refrigerant in the system, and this needs to be recharged.
Many of these air conditioning problems can be identified earlier and fixed become they become more extensive with regular maintenance. Fixing minor issues is usually cheaper, and the HVAC specialist can advise you on components that may need replacing. This will make a failure less likely when you really need to keep your home cool during those hot summer months. Ask your local HVAC specialist about any deals they have on annual servicing to save you even more money. If you’ve skipped a few AC system services, don’t worry, a more extensive service can usually restore a lot of your lost efficacy and efficiency.
If you have any AC system problems, contact your local HVAC specialist for expert help and advice today.