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My AC Runs But Doesn’t Cool! And Other AC Repair Issues

September 2, 2019

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Your home obviously needs AC repair when the central unit simply doesn’t cycle on, but this is not the only problem common to residential air conditioners! A central air conditioner might run but not cool the home, it might create an uncomfortably cold and clammy feeling throughout a home’s interior, or certain rooms of the home might feel overly warm when the rest of the home is sufficiently cool.

Ice buildup around an air conditioning compressor, blocked coils, a faulty thermostat, and poor wiring are common reasons for an AC to run but not cool. Other than AC repair, you might also need to consider the installation of new AC ductwork or an upgraded HVAC system altogether.

An air conditioning system in poor repair not only fails to keep a home’s interior cool but it can also be wasting electricity and spiking your utility bills. An air conditioning system in need of repairs is also at risk of simply failing altogether, which you don’t want to have happen during the hottest days of summer!

To ensure you keep your home’s air conditioning in tiptop shape and can know what to expect by way of needed repairs, it’s good to review some common reasons for an AC system to malfunction. It’s also beneficial to consider how to maintain a residential air conditioner and keep it functioning properly, and how to save on cooling costs throughout the summer season.

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Common Reasons for Needing AC Repair at Home

Only a trained HVAC contractor can know for sure why you need AC repairs at home, but you might note some of those common reasons here. You can then better communicate the issues you’re having with your home’s air conditioning system with an AC repair company, and have a better idea of the repair bills you’ll be facing!

  • When an air conditioning filter is clogged or the coils around the compressor become dirty, ice often forms in and around the AC itself. This keeps the compressor from working properly; the motor and blower might function but when the compressor doesn’t work, the air conditioning system won’t cool the air before it circulates into your home.
  • A clogged or dirty furnace filter can keep cool air from flowing into the home. In some cases, an overly clogged filter can even cause the air conditioning system to shut down altogether.
  • As an air conditioning system cycles on, it pulls moisture from the air. This moisture is then sent along a drain hose connected to the compressor. If that drain hose becomes blocked or clogged, the AC unit can shut down altogether, or the compressor might fail to operate as it should so that the unit runs but doesn’t circulate cool air throughout the house.
  • The coolant in an air conditioner doesn’t “go bad” or evaporate, but damage to the compressor and other parts of the central unit can cause a refrigerant leak. Without enough refrigerant in the unit, your home’s air conditioning system might circulate lukewarm air throughout the house.
  • Some central air conditioning units have safety switches that shut off when the unit gets too hot or if the drain hose mentioned above becomes overly clogged. If your air conditioner fails to cycle on altogether, check the side of your home and along the body of the compressor for such switches and note if either is in the off position. Clear the compressor and drain hose of any debris and then flip the switch back and note if that gets the unit running again!
  • While the wiring running to the compressor is typically protected with heavy-duty metal covers, it’s good to check those covers for damage. If you notice corrosion, holes, and other such damage, the wiring to the air conditioner compressor might also be compromised and in need of replacing.
  • An old and outdated thermostat might not be reading the temperature of the interior space properly so that the air conditioner cycles on and off more or less often than it should. You might even try switching out the thermostat yourself and note if that gets the home’s air conditioning system functioning properly again.
  • Uneven cooling throughout your home might indicate the need for AC ductwork installation, if the home’s current ducts are damaged and allowing cool air to leak out before it reaches certain rooms. An underpowered or undersized air conditioning system is also unable to force air throughout the entire home.

How Much Does AC Repair Cost?

The only way to get a specific quote for AC repair cost in your home is to have an HVAC contractor inspect your unit and pinpoint the needed repairs. However, one factor that might affect your AC repair costs is the make and model of the unit, as some brand names or very outdated air conditioning systems might have costlier replacement parts.

If your air conditioning system has suffered a refrigerant leak, the amount of refrigerant needed to recharge it completely will also affect your AC repair costs. It’s also beneficial to have your HVAC contractor clean out the air conditioning system and replace functioning but worn parts, to ensure the AC unit doesn’t give out even after repairs are made. While this can add to your AC repair costs, regular AC maintenance is an investment in a residential air conditioning system and can extend its expected lifespan!

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When It’s Not AC Repairs You Need!

While the right AC repairs by a qualified HVAC contractor can often get your home cool and comfortable again, there are times when you won’t need AC repairs but a full-system replacement. The trouble with your home’s air conditioning system might also be originating from someplace other than the compressor and its internal parts! Note some reasons why you might not need AC repair and might be looking at other fixes or a new AC installation instead:

  • No amount of fixing can give an undersized unit enough power to push cool air through all the rooms of your home! If you notice that the rooms furthest from the blower don’t get cool enough no matter how often the unit cycles on, you might need a new air conditioner system altogether.
  • HVAC contractors often check the home’s thermostat along with the air conditioning system. A quick calibration or a new thermostat altogether might mean a more accurate reading of the room’s temperature so that the air conditioner cycles on and off as it should.
  • Damaged ductwork allows cool air to leak out and warm air to leak into those ducts as the air conditioning system cycles on. New AC ductwork ensures that cool air is protected as it gets circulated throughout the home, providing for even cooling.
  • A damaged roof, poor roof ventilation, and lack of proper insulation inside the home might trap heat and humidity so that your home’s air conditioning system cannot keep the space cool no matter how often it cycles on and off. Patching up the roof, ensuring its vents are clear or adding more vents, and replacing the home’s insulation allows for a more comfortable interior environment.
  • Damaged or improper wiring doesn’t provide a home’s air conditioning system with enough electricity to function as it should. The unit’s motor and blower might then struggle to operate efficiently so that it doesn’t circulate cool air as it should. It’s especially vital to have your HVAC contractor check the home’s wiring when you choose an upgraded or more powerful air conditioning system, to ensure the electrical system can support its added demands for power.

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Tips for Keeping Your Home’s Air Conditioning in Good Repair

One of the best ways of keeping your home’s air conditioning in good repair is to ensure you’re not overworking the unit! Keeping your home’s interior as cool as possible even before the AC cycles on will mean less wear and tear on the unit and a more comfortable environment. Consider a few tips for ensuring your home is cool and comfortable no matter the outside temperature:

  • Filter sunlight entering into the home with sheer drapes, window film, cellular shades, or light-diffusing blinds. These window treatments keeps the interior space from seeming overly dark while also blocking excessive sun and its resultant heat!
  • Keep as many interior doors open as possible, to allow for added air circulation throughout the home. This tip is especially helpful for rooms that don’t get much light, rooms with cool stone or tile flooring, and rooms near the AC unit. These spaces are often the coolest in the home so keep their doors open and allow that coolness to circulate!
  • Avoiding using heat-producing appliances as much as possible. Use a toaster oven rather than a wall oven and avoid boiling products on the stove during summer months. Switch off coffeepots, curling irons, and other heat-producing items when no longer in use. Swap out standard light bulbs for LED lights, which produce little to no heat!
  • Consider upgrading the home’s insulation to blown foam or a thick layer of fiberglass, to keep out more heat during summer months.
  • Remove as many area rugs as possible during summer. Like clothes, area rugs trap heat in the home so removing them can ensure a cooler environment inside the house.

Related Questions

What are the symptoms of a bad AC compressor?

While the lack of cool air is often the most common symptom of a bad AC compressor, a failing compressor might make loud noises when the unit cycles on. A sudden spike in your utility bills also often means that the AC unit is struggling to work and the compressor might need replacing.

Why not attempt DIY air conditioner repair?

Performing your own AC repair can void the warranty on the unit and improper repairs might cause damage to the electrical wiring, motor, compressor, and other major parts. To avoid these risks, call an HVAC contractor near you rather than attempting your own AC repairs.


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