14 Easy AC Troubleshooting & Maintenance Checks to Beat the Heat

Air conditioner clogged by leaves

Don’t Delay; Check Your AC Today

The last thing you want is for your air conditioner to break down when you need it most.

Unfortunately, it’s a common occurrence. Most people wait until their AC goes on the blink before they think about maintaining it.

But by then, it’s too late, and they’re stuck in a heatwave with temperatures in the house climbing north of 90 degrees F.

Since hundreds of Southern Californians are in the very same pickle, it may be several days before a technician can come to the rescue. They’re busy answering other calls.

Worse, if the repair involves a broken part, who knows if the part is even available? If it has to be shipped, how long will that take?

Let’s hope you’re not home all day or sleeping in an upstairs bedroom. Ouch! And that the kids and pets are well-adapted to desert conditions.

To prevent this from happening, proactively check your AC unit before the summer heat arrives.

Here are 14 easy tips for AC troubleshooting and maintenance:

1. Check the air filter for dirt.

A dirty air filter will reduce the efficiency of your AC unit and may cause it to break down completely.

Check the air filter monthly and replace it every three months or as needed. If you live in a dusty area and run the air conditioning 24-7, you may have to replace the filter more often.

2. Inspect the outdoor unit for debris; clear shrubbery.

Be sure to inspect the outdoor unit of your AC regularly. If a storm or high winds have ever hit it, check for damage and have it repaired as soon as possible.

Inspect the area around the appliance and remove any debris such as leaves, twigs, and dirt. Prune back shrubbery. Your outdoor unit needs at least two feet of clearance on all sides for proper airflow. If it’s obstructed by shrubbery, furniture, or other objects, move them out of the way.

3. Check for coolant leaks and have them repaired immediately.

If you notice any coolant leaks, turn off the AC unit immediately and call a technician. Don’t attempt to repair the leak yourself. It’s is a job for a professional.

4. Test the thermostat and calibrate it if necessary.

If your AC unit isn’t cooling the house as it should, the thermostat may be to blame. Test it to see if it’s working correctly and calibrate it. Again, this may be a job for a professional.

5. Clean the AC coils.

AC coils are dirt magnets; dirty coils can’t cool efficiently. Clean them regularly with a vacuum or compressed air. Use soft rags and brushes and warm, soapy water or a special cleaning solution from a hardware store for caked-on grime. Brush gently — the fins on the coils are delicate.

6. Examine the ductwork and have leaks repaired.

You wouldn’t put up with leaky plumbing.

Leaky air ducts are to your air conditioning what leaky pipes are to your water supply.

Your airflow will lack pressure; it may even be blocked. It will go where it shouldn’t and fail to reach areas where it’s needed most.

And that means your AC has to work harder — and use more energy — to cool your home.

If you suspect there are leaks in your ducts, call a professional to have the ducts sealed or replaced.

Also, have a professional clean your air ducts every few years to remove dirt and other contaminants. Your energy bills and lungs will thank you for it.

7. Check for wear and tear; replace old or damaged AC parts.

If any parts of your air conditioner are old or damaged, have them replaced immediately. This includes the fan blades, capacitor, contactor, and coils. They’re all relatively inexpensive parts that a professional can replace in a single service call.

AC units will show wear and tear with use and time like all machines. It’s critical to repair any damage quickly to prevent further harm. Cracks in the housing, loose bolts, and damaged coils can all lead to bigger problems down the road.

8. Inspect the drainage line and clear it if necessary.

The drainage line is how your AC unit disposes of the water it removes from the air. If this line becomes clogged, it can cause water damage to your home or office. Check the line regularly and keep it clear.

9. Keep an eye on energy usage; have sudden spikes investigated.

Your air conditioner should use roughly the same amount of energy every month. If you see a spike in usage, there may be a problem that calls for a professional repair.

10. Check the blower motor and belt for wear.

The blower motor powers the fan that circulates air through your AC system. The fan belt transfers rotational energy from the motor to the fan.

If they’re damaged, the air conditioner won’t be able to cool your home effectively.

Inspect the motor and belt for wear and have them replaced if necessary.

11. Lubricate all moving parts.

AC units have many moving parts that need to be lubricated regularly. These include the blower motor, fan bearings, and compressor.

If you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself, hire a professional to do it for you.

12. Check electrical connections.

AC units have a lot of electrical components that can become loose over time. Inspect all the connections and tighten them if necessary. Again, you may want to hire a pro to do this.

13. Test the safety switches.

AC units have several safety switches designed to shut off the appliance in case of a problem. Test these to ensure they’re working correctly.

14. Schedule regular AC maintenance with a professional.

At least once a year, hire a professional to inspect and maintain your AC unit. Scheduled professional service is the best way to ensure your air conditioner stays in good working condition.

A technician will be able to spot any problems and fix them before they become serious. Regular maintenance will also prolong the lifespan of your air conditioner.