Air conditioners are modern conveniences that people take for granted. While nobody notices when the air conditioner in a home or business is working, everyone knows when it is broken. As people move into more extreme environments, the need for functioning air conditioning is greater than ever. Although these machines work well and efficiently, like all machines, they can break down. Calling a repairman to fix an air conditioner can be costly, so learning how to perform and diagnose simple repairs can save homeowners hundreds of dollars.

In order to understand how to repair an air conditioner, it is important to have a basic understanding of how an air conditioner works. Modern central air conditioners usually have two components — a compressor, which is typically located outside, and an evaporator coil, which is usually located near the furnace. Freon gas is squeezed by the compressor, which increases its temperature and pressure. The gas changes phases to a liquid, which then passes through another part of the air conditioner where it cools back down and changes phases back to a gas. When this happens, a large amount of heat in the surrounding air is absorbed. This freshly cooled air is then pumped inside the house to the evaporator where fans distribute the cold air throughout the building.

One common problem with an air conditioner is that it may blow air throughout the house, yet not cool it. This problem is often the result of a dirty outdoor compressor unit. Fortunately, cleaning out the compressor is a quick and easy task that most people can perform on their own without needing to call a technician. The first step in cleaning the compressor is to turn the power off to the unit. Sometimes air conditioning units will have shut off switches near the compressors, but other times, it will be necessary to manually switch off the unit from the home’s electrical utility panel. The next step is to clean up any debris that may be sitting at the base of the compressor. Most units have screws that allow for removal of the protective grill. Once the grill is removed, it is possible to check the condenser fins for dirt and debris. If they are dirty, they should be washed with water, being careful not to get the wiring and motor too wet. After all the debris is cleared, the next step is to reassemble the unit and then test for cold air. Another cause of the air conditioner not blowing out cold air is a clogged air filter. The air filter prevents small debris from entering the compressor and condenser units. Once the filter becomes clogged and dirty, it is difficult for warm air to get to the compressor and condenser to be cooled. Changing out the filter is an easy process, but each air conditioner is different, so it is important to check the owner’s manual for detailed instructions on how to perform the switch. If these two steps fail and the air conditioner is still blowing out hot air, it may be necessary to call a certified air conditioning technician to diagnose and fix the problem. Another situation in which a technician would need to be called would be in the case of low coolant levels. By law, homeowners and other uncertified people are not allowed to handle coolant because of environmental concerns. The only option to add coolant to the system is to call a professional.

The other common problem with an air conditioner is that it may not turn on. Often this is the result of a mechanical failure or an electrical problem. The first step is to check to see if the thermostat is functioning properly. The circuit breaker or fuse for the thermostat should be examined to rule out a simple problem. If this does not solve the problem, it will be necessary to test the thermostat. Although it is possible to test a thermostat without calling a professional, it may be advisable to call a technician because electricity is involved. It is necessary to remove wires and then reconnect them in order to determine if a thermostat is faulty.

Air conditioner repairs can be expensive, but with a little knowledge, homeowners can do some minor repairs and save money, however, there are times when repairs are best left to the experts. These include times where there are electrical or mechanical problems that the average homeowner cannot fix on their own.

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