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Think Your AC Won’t Make it Through the Summer? We’ve Got the Fixes!

Is your AC making ominous noises? Maybe it sounds fine but isn’t cooling. Here’s  a list of common air conditioning warning signs and their likely causes and  fixes.

air-conditioning-problems_1784a110770eca6d81b5f2790b8516a0_3x2_jpg_300x200_q85“Let comfort be your guide,” says Tom Hutchinson of Hutchinson Plumbing  Heating Cooling. Air conditioning is all about comfort, so the simplest way to  evaluate your system is to ask: Am I comfortable?

Air conditioning and HVAC  units don’t last forever — 12 years is an average lifespan — and the moment they  fail is usually when you need them the most. The good news is that not every  system malfunction spells total doom. Many nuisances are so cheap and easy to  fix, you’ll kick yourself for not doing them sooner.

Warning sign  #1: My air conditioning won’t turn on

Possible  cause: Often, the most likely culprit is the easiest to remedy: the thermostat  isn’t set correctly, or power isn’t reaching the AC unit.
The  fix: Check to see that the thermostat is set to AC or “cool,” that the  temperature setting is correct, and that the battery is fresh. Second, check the  circuit breaker: Could simply be a tripped fuse.
Cost:  Free

Warning sign #2: I’m not as comfortable as I was last  year
Possible cause: “Airflow is paramount to  comfort,” notes Hutchinson. If you aren’t comfortable, the problem usually can  be traced to issues with airflow.
The fix: Change the  filter. (You should do this as part of regular HVAC  maintenance anyway.) Depending on the quality of the filter, the amount of  people living in the house, and if there are pets, the filter should be changed  every 30-90 days.
Outdoors, make sure there’s at least 24 inches of  clearance on the sides and 5 feet on top of the unit. Also, check to make sure  there are no obstructions to the home’s cold air returns and  registers. Cost: $5 to $20, depending on  filter.

Warning sign #3: My utility bills are abnormally  high
Possible cause: A spike in operating costs  typically signals inefficient operation. After a dirty filter (warning sign #3),  the most likely culprit is a choked condensing coil. Located within the outdoor  unit, the coil has countless cooling fins — much like a car radiator — that can  accumulate dust and debris.
The fix: Call out a pro for  a spring tune-up.
Cost: $75 to  $150

Warning sign #4: Weird noises during startup and  operation
Possible cause: Rattling, buzzing, or  ticking? The good news is that the cause might be little more than a loose  screw. The bad news is that it could be caused by a bum blower motor (indoors)  or bent fan blade (outdoors).
The fix: If you’re lucky,  a simple tightening here and lubricating there will fix the problem. If not, you  might require a new fan motor or fan blade. Cost: $75  for an inspection and tune-up; $750 for a new motor.

Warning sign  #5: The AC shuts off before or long after I’m  comfortable
Possible cause: Improper placement  of the thermostat can wreak havoc on one’s comfort. The unit might be in direct  sun, too close to a register, or near a hot oven. Also, a remodel might have you  spending more time where the thermostat is not. The fix:  Relocate the thermostat.
Cost: Free if you’re handy (and  plan on reusing the same unit), up to $150 for a new programmable unit and  somebody to install it.

Warning sign #6: There’s a puddle of  water next to my furnace
Possible cause: During  normal operation, the system generates moisture in the form of condensate. That  water collects in a pan and flows out a line either into a floor drain or sump  basin. An accumulation of water signals a blockage or disconnection of the  tube.
The fix: Inspect the tube for crimps, clogs, and  disconnections. Also, if the water flows into a sump basin, ensure that the sump  pump is in good working order.
Cost: Free to clean out  blockage; $20 to replace line; $50 for new sump pump.

Warning  sign #7: The air coming out of the registers doesn’t feel as cold as it used  to
Possible cause: The refrigerant lines aren’t  insulated.
The fix: The outdoor unit is connected to the  indoor system by two copper refrigerant lines, which should be covered with an  insulating sleeve. Make sure that it is. Also, the system may need its  refrigerant re-charged. Cost: $5 for insulation and up  to $150 for a system re-charge.

Warning sign #8: My AC unit  refuses to kick on at all Possible cause: Burnt-out compressor
The fix: If the compressor  fails, the unit won’t run. The only fix for this is a costly replacement of the  equipment. Cost: $600 to $1,000. It might be wise to replace  your air conditioner if it’s more than 8 years old.

By: Douglas Trattner | Houselogic

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