Drop that wrench! Simple tips for taking care of some basic heating and air conditioning system problems.
There is nothing worse than flipping your thermostat over to cooling or heating mode and nothing greets you - no heating, your air conditioner won't cool, etc. Do you immediately feel panic? Do you break out in a cold sweat? Do visions of ice filled baths and high repair bills cross your mind? Well, although there are occasions where a maintenance call will need to be made, and yes, that service call can be expensive, there are a few simple things you can check before you hit the panic button.
When you do have a repair, it is always better to call a quality HVAC professional to get the job done right - as opposed to trying your hand at DIY heating and cooling. Instead of a heating or cooling system that needs a quick fix, you could wind up with one that needs to be completely replaced or with even more serious problems that could damage your and your family's health and comfort. For bigger problems, don't break out of the technical manual, pick up the phone and dial your local contractor.
Just to reiterate, do-it-yourself air conditioner, heat pump, furnace, etc., maintenance is strongly discouraged, but there are a couple of things you can do to prevent a breakdown from occurring and/or resolve small problems that don't require HVAC training and expertise.
Common HVAC Problems
Solutions to Try
Air Conditioner TroubleshootingIs your thermostat operating correctly?
If your thermostat is turned off, or not operating correctly, your air conditioner is not going to know when to kick on, turn off, what temperature it needs to be set at, when it has reached temperature, etc. Make sure that your thermostat is on and in cooling mode, and that the batteries are working.What temperature is your thermostat set to?
If your thermostat is set to a temperature that is currently above the temperature in your home, your air conditioner won't need to kick on in order to make sure your home is the temperature you would like it. Always make sure that if you want air conditioning power, you set your thermostat to a temperature below your current indoor temperature.Is your unit turned on?
It may seem like a no brainer, but if you are turning your air conditioner on for the first time in the season, you may not know if power to your unit was turned off at any point during the off season. Make sure that your condenser and indoor component (air handler or gas furnace) has power going to it.Has the circuit breaker been tripped?
Maybe you blew a fuse or tripped your circuit breaker? Check your box and make sure that power is being supplied to your indoor and outdoor components. If any fuses need to be replaced, go ahead and replace those.Is there visible damage to your condenser?
If there is significant damage to the exterior of your unit, it could also have damage to the interior components of your system - like your compressor, coil, etc. If there are signs of damage, contact your local heating and cooling specialist.Call a local heating and cooling specialist
If your air conditioner is fully powered and your thermostat is set to an appropriate setting, it is most likely time to call your local heating and cooling specialist to come and diagnose your problem and get the cool air flowing.
Gas Furnace TroubleshootingTread lightly with your gas furnace
Do-it-yourself heating and cooling isn't recommended for any heating and cooling equipment, but particularly with your furnace. The last thing your want is carbon monoxide or gas leaking into your home. If you need to explore the interior of your unit to diagnose a problem, it is better to put down the screwdriver and contact your local contractor.Is your thermostat set to the right temperature?
Like with air conditioners and heat pumps, your thermostat will need to be set at the right temperature in order to fully receive the benefits of your furnace. You must set your thermostat at a temperature above the current level in the home in order for the unit to kick on.Is your gas turned on?
If no gas is being supplied to your unit, it is not going to be able to operate. Call your local natural gas supplier and make sure that your gas line is intact and there is gas going to your unit.Is electricity being supplied to the unit?
Your gas furnace also needs electricity to kick on. Make sure that your furnace is turned on and that electricity is being supplied to the unit.Have you blown a fuse or tripped the circuit breaker?
Check your circuit breaker and make sure that it wasn't tripped or a fuse hasn't blown. If a fuse has been blown, replace the fuse and see if your gas furnace will kick on then.Is the blower motor running?
If your furnace is on, but the blower motor isn't running, the warmed air from your furnace will not be distributed throughout your home. If this is the case, turn off your system and call your local contractor.Maybe it's time to call your local HVAC professional?
To get your gas furnace up and running and your cold home back up to a comfy temperature, call your local heating and air conditioning professional.
Heat Pump TroubleshootingIs your thermostat set at an appropriate temperature?
Your heat pump is not going to turn on if it is set at a temperature that is above or below the current temperature of your home (depending on whether you are in cooling or heating mode). Make sure to set your thermostat at a temperature below the current reading in your home if your heat pump is in cooling mode, or above the current reading in your home if your heat pump is in heating mode. If it still isn’t turning on, you may have a bigger issue.Which mode is your thermostat set on?
If it’s hot outside and your heat pump is in heating mode, your home will not reach the cool, comfortable temperatures you desire. Double check and make sure that your thermostat is set to the appropriate operating mode for the temperature outside.Is the system turned on?
It may seem silly to ask, but you may not be aware that your HVAC system has been turned off. Check the power sources for your outdoor condenser and indoor component (whether that is a gas furnace or an air handler). Make sure each unit is receiving power.Has your circuit breaker tripped?
If your units are turned on, and you are still not receiving power, you may want to check and make sure that the fuse or circuit breaker that controls that equipment hasn’t blown or tripped.Can you see damage to your condenser?
If you can see obvious damage to the exterior of your heat pump, you may have some internal damage as well. If the interior components of your heat pump aren’t able to function properly you are not going to receive cool or warm air throughout your home. Call your local contractor so they can find out if there is internal damage to your heat pump condenser.Is it time to call a professional?
Your heat pump can only provide year-round heating and cooling power if it is working at its performance potential. If your units are receiving power and they are still not turning on, it’s time to pick up the phone and call your local heating and cooling specialist.
Furnace Blowing Cold Air/Air Conditioner Not Blowing Cold AirAre your registers opened?
The cool air that is produced by your air conditioner or heat pump is delivered through your home through ductwork. Registers are the gateway between the duct and the room that needs the conditioned air. Make sure that your registers are opened so that the air can make it into your living space.Is your thermostat set to the appropriate mode?
If you are expecting cold air to be coming out of your vents, but it is hot air. It could simply be that your thermostat is set to heat your home instead of to cool your home. Check your thermostat and make sure that it is set to the appropriate mode.Is airflow being restricted by a dirty filter?
If you can easily find your furnace filter, check it to make sure there isn’t dirt and grime blocking air from leaving your indoor component and being distributed throughout your home. It’s good practice to check your air filter anyway to make sure that the air you are breathing is fresh.Are there visible signs of duct damage?
A collapsed or detached portion of your ductwork could be preventing cool air from being delivered to your home. If you can see visible duct damage, call your local contractor and have them come out and repair the damaged duct. Your local contractor will be able to examine your ductwork and find out if there are any problems.Is your unit still not running properly?
If the unit is running, but air is not coming out of the vents – or if air is coming out, but not at the correct temperature – turn off your system so that you avoid further damage to the unit.Is it time to call your local HVAC professional?
If there are no visible signs of blockage in your ductwork and the unit seems to be running fine, call your local contractor to diagnose and fix the problem.
I Have Hot and Cold Spots in My HomeAre registers to the problem area open?
If some areas of your home have open registers and some do not, you are going to experience uneven temperatures. It is not best practice to regulate the temperature settings of different rooms by opening and closing registers. Keep your registers open for premium performance.Do you have a zoning system?
As opposed to opening and closing your registers, you should invest in a zoning system to control the temperature of individual rooms or groups of rooms. If you have a zoning system and you are still experiencing uneven temperatures, you could have a faulty damper. The best way to diagnose and fix this problem is by contacting your local HVAC specialist.Did your contractor perform a Manual J load calculation?
When your air conditioner, furnace or heat pump was originally installed, did your contractor take the time to perform a Manual J load calculation? This calculation determines the size of the equipment that your home should have installed in it. A system that is not the correct size for your home will never be able to heat or cool your home correctly and could result in hot and cold spots. The only way to remedy this problem is to have a new unit installed in your home that is properly sized.Time to call your local HVAC professional
Hot and cold spots can be inconvenient and negatively impact home comfort. Talk to your local contractor about eliminating hot and cold spots through a properly sized unit or an HVAC zoning system.
Uncomfortable Humidity in HomeDid your contractor perform a Manual J load calculation when your unit was installed?
Like with many things pertaining to heating and cooling, installation is critical for the performance levels of your equipment. If your heating and air conditioning equipment is too large for your home, it will get your home to the correct temperature too quickly, not allowing enough time to properly remove the humidity from your air. Talk to your contractor about having the correct sized equipment installed in your home.Get in touch with your local heating and cooling professional?
If high humidity levels are making your home hot or you are plagued by a dry home, contact your local contractor to find the root cause of the problem and find a solution – whether that is a correctly sized unit for your home or additional dehumidification/humidifying power for your home.
HVAC Won't Turn OffIs your thermostat operating properly?
If your thermostat isn’t signaling when your equipment should be turning off, it could cause your equipment to constantly run. Follow reset instructions on your thermostat and see if that fixes the problem. If not, you may have to call a contractor out to replace your old thermostat.Is your cooling unit producing cool air (and vice versa)?
If your air conditioner, heat pump or furnace isn’t treating the air and simply pushing untreated air through your ducts there could be a problem with the coils, refrigerant, burner, etc. Trying to fix this problem yourself IS NOT recommended. Turn off your unit through the thermostat to avoid further damage and contact your local heating and cooling contractor.Did your contractor perform a Manual J load calculation when installing your unit?
Many problems can be routed back to the installation. If your air conditioner, heat pump or gas furnace is too small for your home, it could constantly be running and never getting your home up to the appropriate temperature. Talk to your contractor about getting a unit that is the proper size into your home.Have a contractor come out and diagnose/fix the problem
A constantly running heating and cooling system could be driving up your utility bills and leading to a home that isn’t at the best comfort levels. Call your contractor to get your air conditioner, heat pump or gas furnace running properly.
Poor Indoor Air QualityWhen was the last time you changed your air filter?
If you haven’t changed your air filter in a while, it may not be properly filtering out particles in your indoor air. This can lead to reduced indoor air quality and more dust and allergens than you would care to deal with. Make sure you are regularly changing your furnace air filter to keep your air clean.Talk to your contractor about indoor air quality products
If you need more filtration power for premium indoor air quality, you should call your local heating and air conditioning contractor. There are many IAQ additions that can positively improve the level of quality of your indoor air.
There is an Unpleasant Odor Coming From My Heating and Cooling EquipmentCheck your furnace filter. Does it need to be changed?
A dirty filter can harbor bad odors. Make sure that you are regularly changing your furnace filter. Your filter may be located in your furnace/air handler, in a return register, or in your ducts. If your filter is in a more hard-to-reach place, you may have to call in a professional to locate your filter and change it out.Do you have indoor air quality products in place to combat bacteria, mold, odors, etc.?
There are indoor air quality products that can help eliminate odor-causing airborne molecules – such as a UV Light air purifying system. If you already have one of these systems, the light may need to be changed. If not, and you are experience unpleasant odors, talk to your contractor about having one of these systems installed in your home.Talk to your local contractor
Many times the cause of an unpleasant odor in your heating and cooling equipment is environmental, as opposed to a problem with the unit. If odors are causing problems, talk to your contractor about indoor air quality products that can help reduce instances of unpleasant odors.
Find out more about your heating and air conditioning equipment by visiting the Frigidaire Buying Guides.
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