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Why Does Your Air Conditioner Fail?

June 23, 2022


Summers in Northern Virginia are not only hot, they’re steamy. While the rumors that Washington DC was built on a swamp are false, it is true that the Capital city was built on a riverbank and is located in a marshy, coastal floodplain. This can make the ground soft and moist and add moisture to the air. That’s why we rely so much on our air conditioners to remove excess humidity. Unfortunately, HVAC repair services see a surge in service calls come mid-summer due to air conditioner breakdowns. So let’s look at why your air conditioner can fail—and what you can do to prevent it.

Lack of Maintenance

Your HVAC unit needs to be maintained by a professional twice a year to clean the filters and coils from dirt. When clean, these elements keep your AC unit running efficiently. It can also prolong the life of your unit by several years!

Outside Fan Breaks

Your HVAC system’s exterior unit has a fan that transfers the hot air from inside your home to the outside. If it is either not working, or not working effectively, the HVAC system compressor can become overworked, and potentially your air conditioner can fail. You can do a visual check, and remove any leaves or branches that may have become caught in the fan. Make sure the system is turned off before attempting to approach the fan.

The Drain is Clogged

When warm air is removed from your home, the condensation is vented through an exterior drain tube. If it is not draining properly, mold, mildew and algae can build up and potentially clog the drain. Water can back up into your home and cause damage. If you discover a clog, use your shop vac to try to remove it. If you cannot, call your HVAC professional.

Related: How to Unclog a Clogged AC Drain Line

Refrigerant Problems

Just like in your car, your air conditioner uses refrigerant to cool the air. You air conditioner can fail if the refrigerant is not properly charge, has a leak or the amount is low. Your HVAC professional will check this during their maintenance visit to ensure it meets the manufacturer’s specifications for optimal efficiency.

Frozen Evaporator Coil

When frost and ice build up on the evaporator coil it can cause your air conditioner to fail. Keep your unit working properly by changing the air filter regularly and removing dirt and dust from the coils and ductwork. Check the refrigerant levels. Lower levels can cause the unit to overwork.

Wiring Issues

Make sure your air conditioning unit is the right size for your home. Having a unit that is too small can overwork the system, leading to early burnout from turning on and off too frequently. Wiring can also become exposed to the elements and lead to your air conditioner failure.

Faulty Thermostat

Maybe your air conditioner didn’t fail at all! It could be the thermostat that’s gone bad. If this happens, it can cause the unit to turn on or off incorrectly, and create stress to the AC system. For thermostat replacement, choose an energy efficient version that can help reduce your energy bill.

How You Can Help Your Air Conditioner Work Not Fail

  1. The obvious way to better efficiency is to close the windows and doors. The air conditioner cannot remove humidity and cool the air if they are open.
  2. Get twice-yearly maintenance.
  3. If the AC unit does stop working, check the circuit breaker. It may have tripped the circuit on a particularly hot day. If that happens, reset the breaker and let the unit cool down for 5-10 minutes before restarting.

See our post “Should I Run My AC Fan While I’m Away?”

Golden Rule Home Watch Knows About Air Conditioner Fails.

Even though we are not air conditioner or HVAC technicians, we have to know how home systems work. It’s part of our job to review your HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems when we make a Home Watch visit to your house. Because we understand them, we can immediately spot signs of trouble and hopefully prevent any issues before they become a larger problem.

As part of our Concierge Services, we can also help to schedule and attend regular maintenance visits and change filters. Just let us know what you need!

When you’re away from home, it doesn’t mean your home stops running. Your systems continue to function even when you’re not there. And that can mean a problem can occur at any time.

If you’re in Northern Virginia, trust Golden Rule Home Watch & Concierge to watch over your home in your absence. Then an air conditioner fail is one less thing you have to worry about.