Central Air Conditioning Troubleshooting

Central air conditioning troubleshooting can be crucial if it's hot out and you have guests coming to stay for the weekend. Even if you don't have guests, a cool-challenged air conditioner can ruin anybody's day. Before you call a technician, there are a few things you can check yourself.

Troubleshooting Central Air Conditioning Issues

Although only a qualified technician should service some parts of your central air conditioning system, there are several elements you can check yourself. If you're air conditioner won't run or refuses to cool, here are some things to check:

  • Start with the obvious. Check the thermostat and make sure it's set to a temperature below the current room temperature. Got a programmable thermostat? Make sure it's properly set and has fresh batteries.
  • Powered up? Check the system power by turning the thermostat setting from Auto to the On position. If the blower fails to engage, there could be an electrical problem. If your HVAC system relies on a furnace for heat, make sure the emergency switch is turned to On. Also, check the circuit breaker or fuse box. If the circuit for the air conditioner is tripped, reset it and try the unit again. If the circuit trips a again, it's time to call a repairman.
  • The big red button. Set the thermostat to Cool, the fan setting to Auto and the temperature to a setting well below the room temperature. If the inside fan runs, but the condenser (typically located outside) stays off, check the circuit breaker again. If no circuits are tripped, check the outside of the condenser unit for a button called a high pressure cut out-it will probably be near the two refrigerant pipes near the back. If your unit has a cut out button, press it all the way in and try the system again.
  • Checking pipes. If the inside and outside units both run, but the system provides only warm air, take a walk out to the condenser unit. Feel the larger of the two copper pipes running into the unit. If the pipe is warm, the system may need refrigerant or the compressor may need to be repaired. If it is frozen, you may have an airflow problem. Check to see that all filters are clean, that all registers are open and that objects don't block the return register. Correct any of these issues and shut the system down until the pipe thaws completely. Turn the system back on. If the pipe freezes again, call for service-you may have a refrigerant issue.
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