One of the best things about living in Northern California is the proximity to so much gorgeous scenery. My family and I try to make the most of it by taking a spring trip to Yosemite National Park each year. To get there, we go down through Modesto and into Oakdale, the last decent-sized city on our route. It’s a tradition of ours to stop for a bite there at a sandwich shop called Ferrarese’s Deli. While we were there this spring, I was chatting with the staff about how rainy and cold our winter had been, mentioning I wasn’t a fan of the cold myself.
You should have seen their reactions. They were nice, of course, but I could tell they wanted to laugh at me. Instead, they gently reminded me that Oakdale is one of the hottest towns in our region, and the sun and heat are already back for a long summer season. They’re right, of course. Oakdale’s average high temperature in July is 95.8 degrees. So, yeah, a rainy winter wasn’t miserable for them, it was a welcome break from the sun.
Now, being the HVAC professional I am, I said they were smart to always be thinking about the summer heat; preventative annual AC maintenance for Oakdale’s summers is a sunny idea. Getting air conditioner checkups is especially important in a hot town like Oakdale where you depend on your home’s cooling system for quality of life. That’s why today I’d like to emphasize this point: regular maintenance is vital. Mark off your checklist now to prevent major work later this summer when you need your AC most.
Common Air Conditioner Afflictions
You can’t solve a problem you don’t understand. That’s why I want to start today by talking about the most common air conditioner afflictions that people who live in unusually hot climates like Oakdale often face. The list below is a product of my own experiences as an HVAC tech, plus information provided by the US Department of Energy.
There are three main categories of issues that cause homeowners to call for AC repair:
- My AC isn’t turning on: No matter what you do to your thermostat, the unit won’t kick on. You don’t feel cold air coming from the vents. Heck, you don’t feel any air coming from the vents—and you hear nothing but silence when you turn on your thermostat.
- My AC isn’t cooling properly: This is a trickier issue, in that you may not notice when it begins. It could start with your air conditioner taking longer to get to the temperature you set your thermostat to. Or, it could be so severe that your AC turns on and actually blows hot air. Either way, this is a clear sign that you have something serious wrong with your AC, something that will likely require the help of a professional technician.
- My AC has subpar airflow: Your AC blows cold air, but it doesn’t blow very much air. As a result, it might take your house an unreasonable amount of time to get to the temperature you want. This is another tricky issue, which, like the two above, will require the help of a professional HVAC technician.
The Root Causes of HVAC Troubles
As with most complicated things, the question of what’s happening isn’t as important as why is this happening. It’s the same with AC problems. Knowing the potential causes of HVAC trouble will help you better inform the HVAC tech and prevent issues from popping up to begin with. And that brings me to the secondary reason I want to discuss these causes—so they’ll be fresh in your mind when it’s time to schedule your next routine annual checkup.
- Refrigerant: If your refrigerant is low, it means there’s a leak. AC units don’t naturally burn the stuff. Call an HVAC tech to have them fix it. Signs for this include warm air coming from vents and leaks in or around the unit.
- A dirty filter: Put simply, you have to change your filter once a month. If you don’t, it can get dirty and stop working correctly, which can cause subpar airflow because the air simply won’t be able to get around the debris.
- Electrical control failure: Sometimes in an overly warm climate like Oakdale, AC units tend to turn on and off more frequently, especially if the unit is old and starting to wear down. This happens because it can’t quite keep up with the demands of the thermostat, and the result is electrical control failure, which then prevents the unit from turning on at all. A professional will also need to check your electrical connections.\
- A ductwork clog or leak: For optimal performance, your ducts need to be free of clogs and sealed airtight. This winter, most residents of even toasty Oakdale probably ran their heat, but in more moderate seasons I’ve seen it happen where ducts get damaged over the winter and nobody notices because they don’t use the furnace much. Then when the AC season starts up, the unit is running all the time because of a leak, and the homeowner has to call a professional to find and seal the breach.
Preventative Methods to Keep Your AC Efficient
The single best way to keep your AC healthy and efficient is to get it an annual check-up. It really is that simple. One way to prevent every problem on this checklist from becoming a full on AC meltdown in the middle of the hot Oakdale summer is to get annual maintenance in the late spring or early summer.
A trained HVAC professional will switch out the filter, check the ducts for leaks, and make sure the electrical components are humming along nicely. Whenever I have to come out and fix a catastrophic AC failure, I ask the homeowner when the last time they had a check-up was and the answer is almost invariably that they can’t remember. A good HVAC shop will set up an annual appointment for you, so you don’t even have to call to initiate it, they’ll know when to reach out.
Think of preventative AC maintenance as an investment that will save you money on future repairs, as well as an investment in staying cool and relaxed all summer long. As much as I like my customers, ideally I only have to see them once a spring for their annual check-up, instead of later in the summer season when something has gone terribly wrong. If you want to schedule a catch up with me, just give me a call. I’m sure that conversation would be a lot more chill than the one we’d have standing outside together next to your broken AC.
Make sure to get your annual AC checkup before the summer really starts to swelter. Contact the trained HVAC professionals at Bell Brothers to schedule an appointment now.
Image courtesy Unsplash user frank mckenna