How to Prevent Air Conditioner Failure This Summer

by Megan WildJune 8, 2018

We haven’t quite hit that first day of summer yet, but that hasn’t stopped climbing temperatures that force you to switch HVAC units from heat to air. It’s also one of the most common times of the year to experience air conditioner failure, which is the last thing most people want to deal with when the thermometer starts getting up into the 80s and 90s. Here’s what can you do to prevent A/C failure this summer.

A little girl sits in front of a mint colored fan with her arms outstretched.

1. Clogged Condensate Lines

Your air conditioner generates a lot of water in the form of condensation, especially if you live in a humid area. This water collects in a pan beneath your air handler’s coils and moves, usually via gravity, to the exterior of your home. If you’ve ever seen a little PVC, or copper pipe sticking randomly out of the side of your house that drips water, you’ve seen your condensate line.

These lines can get clogged with algae growth. If that happens, the pan will fill up and start flooding the area around your air handler, potentially causing lots of damage. You can prevent this by periodically pouring a cap or two of bleach into your condensate pan — make sure you don’t get it on the coils though. This kills any algae that might be growing in the line and prevents it from clogging.

If the line does get clogged, go outside to your condensate line with a wet/dry shop vac and vacuum out the clog.

2. Frozen or Dirty Coils

This is two problems in one — frozen coils prevent your air conditioner from generating enough cold air, and dirty coils stop airflow.

Everything from low refrigerant, when the HVAC unit is working extra hard to try to make up for the lack of refrigerant and ends up freezing the coils to airflow problems such as those created by dirty air filters that you haven’t replaced in a long time can cause frozen coils.

One way to avoid this problem is to have your air conditioning unit inspected twice a year — once at the beginning of the cooling season and once at the beginning of the heating season. That way, you can spot any problems before they occur.

Filters need to be replaced often – every one to three months depending on the filter and the air quality in your home.

3. Unit Won’t Turn On

It’s the one thing that everyone dreads, you go to turn on the A/C when it gets warm, but the unit won’t cycle on. It could mean an expensive visit from an HVAC repair technician, but there are a few things you can check before you call the repairman that doesn’t cost you anything.

First, check the breaker for both your outdoor unit and your indoor air handler. Each one should have a 220 breaker in your fuse box — make sure that the breakers aren’t tripped. If they are, flip them back on and see if that solves your problem.

Second, check your thermostat. Make sure that you set it to the proper temperature, that it’s on, and that it doesn’t need a replacement battery.

If that doesn’t fix the problem, it could indicate a larger issue that will need addressing by a professional.

Young repairman fixing an air conditioning compressor.

4. House Isn’t Cool Enough

If the air conditioner is running but the air it’s blowing isn’t cool enough to keep you comfortable, there could be a few different culprits.

First, take a look at your windows. Even if you don’t have double-pane or energy efficient windows, using blinds or window treatments to keep the sun out can help lower your energy costs and keep your home cooler.

Look at your exterior A/C unit too. If your unit is too crowded by plants or other vegetation, it can’t work as efficiently. Make sure your unit has two to three feet of clearance on all sides and at least five feet of clearance above it to maximize airflow. If the unit is dirty, it will also lower its efficiency and make it harder for it to blow cool air.

A black high efficiency modern AC-heater outdoor unit in a yard.

5. Thermostat Isn’t Working Right

You might need to start rearranging some things if your thermostat says it’s 75 degrees in the house, and it feels like it’s 90 in every room except the one where the thermostat is. Don’t put your thermostat in the warmest room in your house, such as the kitchen, or near appliances such as a television, computers or light fixtures that generate heat. Most thermostats contain an internal thermometer so if your house thinks it’s 75 degrees in the warmest room, the rest of the house will suffer.

Maintain Your Unit

An air conditioner is a lifesaver in hot environments, but only if you maintain it, so it works properly to keep you from sweating during the middle of the hot summer months.

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About The Author
Megan Wild
Megan Wild enjoys finding easy and low-stress ways to improve your home. In her downtime, she enjoys flipping flea market finds, hanging out with her dog, and writing on her home-themed blog, Your Wild Home. She's passionate about sustainability and environmentalism, and you can find her tweeting about both @Megan_Wild.

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