I’ve been tinkering with mechanical equipment my entire life. Cars, TVs, bicycles—you name it, I wanted to take it apart and put it back together. Eventually, I started learning from my dad how to fix things that actually needed repair. Of course, I didn’t know it then, but I’d end up spending most of my adult days doing this: fixing and replacing furnaces and air conditioning units that have become inefficient or started to break down.
What I gradually came to learn was that no matter what it is that I’m working on, it’s much easier to repair a problem that’s caught early, not left to become more severe and pronounced over time. This is a lesson I try to impress upon my friends and customers every day as an HVAC technician in Northern California. Our summers here get hot, and a working air conditioner is important to your family’s health and wellbeing. If you catch the small stuff, you won’t have to pay for expensive repairs when your AC quits working in the middle of the Sacramento summer. In other words, get yourself familiar with the 10 signs that your AC needs repair or to be replaced. And I just so happen to know a guy who wouldn’t mind taking it apart for you.
The 10 Signs Your AC Needs to Be Repaired or Replaced
- Blows warm air
- Poor air flow
- Inaccurate thermostat
- Loud noises
- Bad odors
- Frequent repairs
- Humidity in the home
- Freon or water leaks
- High or rising electric bills
- It’s more than 10 years old
Sign #1: AC Is Blowing Warm Air
You didn’t get an air conditioner so it could sit around and look cool. It has a job to do—keep your family comfortable over the long, hot summer months. Sacramento, for example, has a Mediterranean climate. June through September is filled with blazingly hot and sunny days. If your AC starts having problems during the hottest months of the year, blowing warm instead of refreshingly cold air, you need to have a professional HVAC technician out for a repair.
Sign #2: Very Little Air Coming Out of Vents
A slight variation of the warm air issue is a problem with weak air flow. Maybe you turn your AC on and you can feel cool air, it’s just coming out of your vents so weakly that it’s not circulating well through the room. This is often a sign that the AC unit’s compressor is failing, but it can also indicate issues with your ducts. There’s a bit of uncertainty here, so you definitely want to call in a professional for a tune-up to ensure there aren’t bigger problems on the way.
Sign #3: The Thermostat Is Not Working
The thermostat is command central for your AC, telling it how much cool air to generate and then taking measurements to make sure it’s doing its job. If your AC won’t turn on, or if it runs for short periods of time before turning itself off, this may indicate that your thermostat has broken and is no longer accurately gauging if the unit is working or not. You’ll want a trained HVAC tech to look at this too, since there are complex electrical components involved with the thermostat.
Sign #4: AC Making Loud Noise Inside Unit
If you’re hearing squealing, grinding, or scraping coming from your AC unit when it’s on, there could be a problem inside the unit with a belt slipping out of place. This is a serious issue that merits an immediate call to a local expert because loose pieces can damage other, costly parts as well.
Sign #5: Air Conditioner Smells Bad When Turned On
Your AC isn’t supposed to stink. If it does, something has gone wrong. A pungent smell in this situation normally indicates that the wire insulation inside the unit has burned out, while a musty smell probably means there’s mold somewhere in the unit or possibly even the ductwork. This is something you need a professional to diagnose ASAP because it can make you and your family sick.
Sign #6: Problems With AC Getting More Frequent
If you and I have seen each other three or four times in just a few months, it may be time to quit shelling out for repairs all together and just straight up buy a new air conditioner. This season I suspect a lot of Sacramento residents will find themselves in this situation. Sacramento has such a great, eclectic mix of historic homes as well as newer homes built a decade or so ago. It all adds up to a perfect storm of aging AC units that need to be replaced and upgraded.
Sign #7: AC Not Removing Enough Humidity
Part of the air conditioner’s job is to reduce the humidity in your house. Now, we don’t exactly have the world’s most humid climate here in Northern California, but there is a slight amount of moisture in the air. If you start to notice humidity inside your house even when the AC is running, it may be in need of repair.
Sign #8: Freon Refrigerant Leaks Around AC Unit
Moisture leaking anywhere in or around your HVAC system is a problem. In the most serious cases, this indicates a refrigerant leak. Freon is poisonous, so call a pro immediately on sight. In less serious cases, however, it may be water because the tube that disposes of condensation is blocked or broken. This can manifest a couple of ways. Sometimes, you’ll see water leaking out of the unit onto your floor, and other times you may notice ice inside your HVAC on the copper refrigerant lines that run outside the condenser. Both are a sign that a professional should be called in.
Sign #9: My Electric Bill Doubled
A power bill that suddenly shoots up without a corresponding bump in how often you are running your air conditioner is another strong indicator that your system is in need of repair or replacement. There are multiple causes for this particular issue, including leaks in your AC’s ductwork, a broken thermostat switch, or the advanced age of the unit. Regardless of the source of the trouble, the AC will need to be repaired.
Sign #10: Air Conditioner Lifespan Is Up
Simply put, if your AC has made it to its tenth birthday, or longer, you should thank it for its abnormally long life of service and start shopping for a new unit. A decade is at the high end of how long air conditioners live for.
Another thing I loved as a kid was playing outside on a hot summer day and coming home to my parents’ cool, refreshingly air conditioned house. I loved that first whoosh of pleasant air on my overheated face. Maybe that should have been my second clue that I would grow up to help folks with their busted HVAC units.
These 10 signs are helpful reminders of how to spot problems quickly and, in some cases, help prevent an AC replacement altogether. Temperatures in the 70s aren’t natural during the summer in Sacramento; it takes a lot of properly functioning mechanics to keep your home in the comfort zone. Air conditioners are complex. If you do notice any of the signs above, I don’t recommend tackling them yourself. Too much can go wrong. Give me a call, and I’ll be happy to help. I’ve been doing it most of my life.
Have you noticed any of the signs above? Call the trained professionals at Bell Brothers today for a free evaluation of your HVAC system.
Image courtesy Unsplash user Steinar Engeland