If your air conditioner can’t seem to keep up these days, there are a couple of common problems you can check yourself before calling an expensive repairman – or even worse, buying an unnecessary replacement.
Simply put, air conditioners do two things: get the “hot” out of a home and move “cold” in. To diagnose your problem, you have to ensure your unit is doing both properly.
Air conditioners use a refrigerant to move heat from the inside of your home to the exterior. This coolant is pumped in a continuous loop, going through a couple of phase changes, where it absorbs and dissipates heat along the way. There are a couple of common problems that hinder this simple function.
Get the Hot Out
After the coolant has absorbed heat from the inside of your home, it is pumped outside. The air conditioner box that sits outside your home has a big fan that helps dissipate that heat. If anything blocks the fan’s ability to flow, it will restrict the unit’s ability to get the hot out. For the fan to work properly, the air conditioning unit should have a minimum 6 inches of clearance on all sides. Remove any obstructions, such as vegetation growing on or near the cabinet as pictured above, and you just may have solved the problem.
Get the Cold In
Once the heat in your home is fully dissipated, the cold refrigerant will be pumped back into the house. It’s important to keep this coolant cold so it can absorb as much heat as possible, which is why air conditioners are plumbed with insulation on the line where it enters the home. Time and exposure tend to damage this insulation, which means the coolant will absorb heat from the outside before it ever gets in your home.
Below you can see worn insulation exposing the bare coolant line (only the larger diameter line should be insulated). This line should be fully encapsulated in insulation, which is available and inexpensive at almost any hardware store.
If you make sure the fan is unobstructed and the larger diameter coolant line is insulated, you will have your air conditioner setup to run as designed. Both are simple DIY projects and cost less than having a technician out for a house call. Take a look before you pick up the phone!