Tip & How-To about Heating & Cooling
How to troubleshoot and repair the most common problems with your central air conditioner
Although some central air conditioner repairs must be handled by a qualified air-conditioning repairperson, you can handle simple repairs and maintenance yourself. Following, you'll find guidance based on the symptoms.
Air conditioner doesn't cool A central air conditioner that runs but doesn't cool may just need to be cleaned. Plan to do this on a relatively warm day. The following are basic guidelines, but always refer to your owner's manual.
1) Before you begin, turn off the power to the unit. There is normally a shut-off or disconnect panel on the house wall next to the outdoor compressor. Also shut off the air conditioner's 240-volt circuit at the main electrical panel.
2) Rake leaves and debris away from the outdoor condenser. Trim any bushes that might block airflow.
3) Unscrew and remove protective grilles and the top cover or grille from the compressor. If the fan is attached to the grille, be careful not to pull any wires loose.
4) Use a soft brush to clean dirt and debris from the fins, and then vacuum the fins with a brush attachment (taking care not to damage the fins).
5) From inside the unit, use a hose and nozzle with a trigger-grip to spray debris from the fins (protect the wiring and motor with plastic sheeting or a large plastic garbage bag). If your owner's manual calls for lubricating the motor, do that now--but don't overlubricate.
6) Reassemble the unit.
7) To test it, turn the thermostat to "Off," reset the power at the disconnect by the compressor and the main panel, and then set the thermostat to turn the unit on. Important note: To avoid straining an air conditioner's compressor, wait at least five minutes between turning it off at the thermostat and turning it back on. Let it run for a few minutes, and then feel the two pipes that connect to the condenser unit on the air handler (slide any insulation back). One should feel warm, the other cool.
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