Have you ever had your air conditioner give out, on what seems like the hottest day of the year? It’s all too common and results in a frustratingly hot wait while the repairs are being completed. However, you can avoid major breaks in your system by catching smaller issues early and keeping up with air conditioner check-ups.
In general, your air conditioner needs a check-up once a year, just before you turn it on. However, there are some warning signs that your air conditioner needs a check-up sooner, to prevent a more serious problem from cropping up. Here are the signs to look out for.
Unusual noises are never good from anything mechanical and your air conditioner is no exception. Sometimes we miss the noises our air conditioner makes, because it’s the outdoor unit with the problem, and we tend not to spend much time near that. It might be wise to stand near your outdoor unit while your air conditioner is running and see if it’s making any sounds. Although, the air conditioner can make noises on the inside too.
- Rattling: Any sound that you think might have been made by parts knocking off each other is probably just that. Loose fan components, even the case on the outdoor unit, may be improperly secured and creating the noise. This will become a more serious problem over time as the two parts knocking against each other may break each other.
- Squeaking: Squeaking can also be the sound of a part moving in a way that it shouldn’t.
- Clicking: Clocking is commonly a cycling problem, where the air conditioner is turning itself off early, or turning itself on frequently. Either is a waste of energy
- Gurgling/hissing: These sounds often indicate a problem with the refrigerant, potentially a leak. Refrigerant leaks are safety hazards and they will slowly render your air conditioner useless.
Of course, if your air conditioner just plain won’t turn on, then you know it needs some work. What are some more subtle performance issues that signal that your air conditioner is headed towards a break if it doesn’t get some professional attention? Here are a few things to check:
- Air no longer feels as cool: Your air conditioner doesn’t change how cold the air is that it outputs. It just stops running when your home doesn’t need any more cool air. So, if the air actually feels less cool than it used it, this is usually a performance or refrigerant problem.
- Air no longer reaches as far: Does it seem like the cool air from your air conditioner doesn’t get to the other side of the house anymore? It’s possible your fan isn’t running properly anymore, or that your filter needs to be cleaned or replaced.
- Utility bills rising: When your air conditioner has a problem, it functions less efficiently and costs you more in utility bills, even if there are no other obvious signs of an issue. Unfortunately, few people will catch this sign, as utility bills tend to creep up slowly over time. It’s best to compare your bill to the same month last year, or the year before, rather than compare month to month.
Moisture and Air Quality Issues
Your air conditioner may also develop moisture or air quality issues that not only indicate something is wrong with it, but that may also undermine your comfort in your home.
- Leaks: Any puddles or droplets near the air conditioner may have been caused by it. The air conditioner condenser uses moisture as a way to move heat out of your home, so leaks and humidity are a potential problem. This excess moisture may damage the air conditioner, your drywall, and contribute to high humidity in your home. Usually, this is a condenser issue that needs to be resolved by a professional.
- Air quality: With that high humidity may come smells, mold, fungus, and other air quality issues. Or, your air conditioner may develop these problems due to a dirty filter. Either way, a professional can refresh your air conditioner and make the air it blows out much more comfortable.
Best Practices for Air Conditioner Maintenance
You should check on your air conditioner periodically, but not just early in the season. Just before summer hits its peak, you should check in on it, as your air conditioner will start to work significantly harder in the high heat. This is when it is most likely to suffer complete failure. So, if you and your HVAC professional can catch errors before this, you’ll save yourself the trouble of having to arrange for emergency repairs.