Three Major Signs Your AC Is Failing
Is this you?
Your home air conditioning system is a few years old, and you know it’s not going to last forever. But you’ve done your homework, and do what you can to extend its life: you change the filters regularly, check that the condenser is draining properly, and turn the system off and give it a rest when you leave for a few days.
But now, you’re noticing it’s just not cooling as well as it used to, or it’s noisy, or cycling on and off an awful lot. Is it in trouble?
Here are three clues that your air conditioning system may be on its last legs and need professional help:
CLUE #1: ELECTRICITY (two things to note here)
You know electricity costs are going up, but now that you’re running your air conditioner – your bills have suddenly shot through the roof! That’s a clue that your air conditioner is running longer to maintain a normal temperature in your house. Is it the weather (are you experiencing record-breaking high temperatures outside?) or is it your AC? If your area is not experiencing an unusual heat wave, and your electricity costs (a glance at your bill should reveal this) haven’t gone way up, chances are that there’s problem your air conditioning technician should take a look at.
Another electrical clue is that the circuit breaker to your air conditioning unit flips (resets) frequently. An overworked air conditioning compressor could be the cause, and that’s another clue to call the professionals.
CLUE #2: NOISE
Wow! What’s that noise? A normally-operating air conditioning system is relatively quiet, but if you get used to saying “oh, that’s just the air conditioning kicking in,” you may have trouble. Here are the five most common air-conditioning-related noises and what they mean:
Squealing – This is probably either a slipping – or worn out – belt, or it’s a sign the compressor bearings are failing. If you’re handy, you may be able to deal with replacing the belt yourself, but the bearings may need a professional.
Banging – If you hear loud thumps or rattling when you turn on your air conditioner – turn it off! Noises like that mean some part has come loose – like the fan or motor mounts – and it needs to be fixed or replaced before it comes apart or breaks completely.
Thwap-thwap-thwap-thwap-thwap – That fast thwapping sound may be familiar if you ever stuck a playing card on your bicycle wheel spoke as a kid. That sound means something’s hitting the fan blades, and while it may not be a critical part that’s come loose, even a bit of loose debris hitting the fan can cause the motor to wear out before its time.
Repeated clicking – Your air conditioning system clicks when it turns on, and that’s a normal sound. When you hear it click repeatedly, that’s a clue that something’s wrong. It could be a defective relay, or a control unit may causing the relay to timeout and fail.
Outside noises – When your outside compressor kicks on, the fan blade should not rattle when it turns. Neither should it scream. A little squeal when the motor starts is normal, but a loud scream is not – and the louder the scream, the worse the problem. This is definitely a job for professionals.
CLUE #3: WARM AIR (of course!)
If your thermostat is working properly, and your air conditioning unit seems to be running as it should, except that the air coming from the vents is warm instead of cold, you’re looking at a problem with the compressor – and that’s a job for the professionals. The compressor is what circulates the refrigerant throughout the system, and if the refrigerant isn’t circulating properly, the air will definitely not get cool.
Air conditioning systems can fail at any age, so it’s a good idea to know how to recognize problems early. It’s much better to tackle a small problem as soon as it shows up, because small problems can grow to be big ones very fast.
In other words, don’t lose your cool – just call your air conditioning experts. They have the tools, the parts, and the know-how to keep you in the cool.