What to Do If Your Air Conditioner’s Not Cooling

Dirty air conditioner filters

In Los Angeles, air conditioning is a necessity, not a luxury.

Air conditioning is essential for comfort and safety during the city’s long, hot summers, which get hotter by the year.

Unless they’re well-maintained, all ac units develop problems over time, from minor hiccups that compromise their performance to full-blown failure.

We’re here to talk about the hiccups.

You’re the Front Line of Repair

To DIY or not to DIY? If you’re uncomfortable with any of the steps described below, it’s best to call in the pros at West Coast Chief.

However you proceed, don’t procrastinate! Handle AC maintenance promptly — even better, on a schedule — to prevent minor issues from developing into more costly problems.

Besides, by keeping your AC in good working order, you’ll enjoy unparalleled indoor comfort during the dog days of August.

What to Look for: Signs Your AC Needs Maintenance

If your air conditioner runs non-stop without cooling, try going through a few simple checks.

The more you can do for yourself, the more you’ll save time and money, and the more efficiently your AC will operate between scheduled maintenance calls with Chief.

The AC Unit Is Nearly Always Outdoors

First, you have to locate the air conditioner. Believe it or not, some people struggle with this preliminary step.

Central AC and HVAC systems (heating, cooling, and ventilation) usually place the air conditioner units outdoors beside or behind the house. The furnace, in comparison, enjoys a sheltered existence in the garage or a spare closet. Such is the thankless life of an air conditioner. No wonder things go cattywampus.

Here’s how to get your AC running at its happy best.

Turn off the power to your air conditioner.

Flip the breaker switch that controls power to the AC unit. You’ll probably find the breaker box on an outside wall of the house. But in some homes, it’s located in the garage or even a utility closet. Or there may be a panel near the AC compressor.

Power should be off at the source before you begin.

Clean the condenser.

Clear away any leaves or twigs that have taken up residence. The air conditioner’s intake fan draws them in almost like a black hole pulling in space debris. Dirt goes in and never leaves unless you help it exit.

Trim back any shrubs, foliage, or grass that impede airflow to and through the condenser.

A professional AC tune-up will include a chemical cleaning of the condenser coils.

For the DIY version of this, you’ll need:

  1. A garden hose with a nozzle attachment.
  2. A stiff brush.
  3. Mild detergent

Finally, you’ll need a little elbow grease!

  1. Use the garden hose to spray down the outside of the condenser unit.
  2. Once the unit is clean, mix a small amount of detergent with water and scrub away any residual dirt.
  3. Rinse the unit with the garden hose and allow it to dry completely before reconnecting it to power.

Remove the protective grille over the top of the condenser.

Here you’ll find more debris that has gotten in. The simplest way to remove it is with a putty knife or screwdriver.

Inspect and clean the condenser fan.

The condenser fan sits on the outside of the AC unit and helps to circulate air through the coils. If it becomes dirty or damaged, it won’t be able to do its job right.

First, check for any visible dirt or debris and remove it with a brush. Next, use a no-rinse coil cleaner to break up any residual dirt and grime. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Check and clean the evaporator coils.

The evaporator coils are inside the AC unit on the blower fan side. They look like a small radiator and play an essential role in heat exchange.

Remove any dirt with a brush. Use a no-rinse coil cleaner to break up any residual grime.

Inspect the AC unit’s fins; clean and straighten them.

The fins are the metal vanes that surround the evaporator and condenser coils. If they get bent or damaged, air will circulate less efficiently. Use a fin comb to realign them.

Next, carefully hose off the fins located within the top grille without getting wiring or the motor wet.

Then wipe the fins off with a towel, taking caution not to bend them. You can use a soft brush as well.

Check the air filter and replace it if necessary.

A dirty air filter impedes air flow and puts unnecessary stress on your air conditioner, leading to premature failure.

Replace the air filter at least once a month and more often if you have pets or live in a dusty area.

Lubricate the motor.

If your owner’s manual allows it, lubricate the motor. Don’t apply too much lubricant, as this will cause more problems than you bargained for. Easy does it!

Check for leaks in the refrigerant line.

The refrigerant line is a copper coil that connects the evaporator and condenser coils. It’s under high pressure, so even a tiny leak can cause big problems.

If you suspect a leak, the best action is to contact a professional AC repair technician. Like us (shameless plug)!

Check for any air leaks around the AC unit and seal them.

Look for cracks or gaps in the unit’s casing and seal them with caulk or expanding foam. This will help keep cool air in and hot air out. Seal the deal, baby!

Check the AC unit’s voltage and amperage.

What, you don’t have a voltmeter lying about the house?

Admittedly, this step is for appliance nerds only.

But if you have a voltmeter handy and know how to use it, test the voltage at the electrical panel and make sure it matches the rating on the unit itself. If it’s too high or low, you may need to adjust your breaker switch.

You should also check the amperage draw on the unit. Too much amperage can damage the compressor.

Or, if you have any concerns about your abilities here and worry about blowing up the house, call us at West Coast Chief. We love voltmeters. We have them for breakfast.

Be smart about AC use.

Turning off your air conditioner for an extended time can cause more harm than good. The oils in the compressor need to circulate to keep the unit lubricated and cool.

If you’re going to be away for more than a day or two, it’s best to leave your AC unit on to avoid any problems.

Call a professional AC repair technician.

If you’ve followed all of these steps and your AC unit still isn’t working correctly, it’s time to call in the experts. We’ve seen it all at West Coast Chief, and we can help you get to the bottom of the problem fast.

We’re always here to help, so call us today!

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