Common Heating and Air Conditioning Problems

Maintenance

A home's HVAC system is comprised of many parts including heating, cooling and ventilation components that all work together to make your home more comfortable. HVAC units are usually pretty reliable, however like any complex system, problems can arise. When troubles do come about you can typically find the problem lying within the individual parts breaking down or functioning improperly. Keeping all parts of your system in good working order will ensure the comfort you and your family need at the most affordable cost possible. Listed below are the most common things to check when you notice issues with your HVAC system. Some of these problems are do-it-yourself while others are more complex and we advise a trained technician be called.

1. Broken Thermostat

In many instances, when your heating or cooling system runs too much or not enough, blame can be placed on the thermostat. Should this be the only issue, the thermostat will be one of the easiest and cheapest fixes. As most of you know, the thermostat tells the HVAC system what to do and when to do it. Many times the thermostat has been accidentally shut off or set to the wrong setting. Other times the thermostat is actually broken, in which case you will have to purchase a new thermostat for your system.

2. Dirty Air Filters

Changing air filters is another quick and easy fix that can dramatically change the performance of your heating and cooling system. When dirt builds up on your filter it reduces the air flow to your system causing the unit to work harder to pull air through the system. This extra work will increase your energy bill and could potentially cause the unit to freeze in extreme cases. As a rule of thumb, depending on what type of filter you have, your filter should be changed every 1 to 6 months. Disposable filters vary on a wide scale, but typically if you have a less expensive 1" thick filter purchased from the local hardware store, you should plan on changing the filter once a month (especially during the peak seasons). If you have a higher-quality filter, it can last from 2 months to 12 months depending on the brand and type. Permanent filters should generally be cleaned every month during, especially during months of high use.  The best approach is to follow the manufacturer’s recommended filter replacement schedule.  If you’re not sure, contact us and we’ll help you figure it out.

3. Blown Disconnect Fuse

A disconnect fuse protects the HVAC system's compressor and other electrical components during operation. For your own safety, always call a licensed HVAC or electrical professional to handle electrical issues.

4. Worn Contactor

Contactors are the devices in your unit that make electrical connections when you turn on the heat or air conditioning. There are three contactors in your system, one for the compressor, one for the blower motor and one for the condenser fan motor. Overtime arcing and pitting can form which makes it hard for an electrical current to pass through the contactors to start the motors or compressor. Eventually, a bad contactor will eventually lead to hard start ups or a possible malfunction of your system.

5. Refrigerant Leak

Refrigerant, commonly referred to as Freon, is used to cool the air when air conditioning is used. If the unit does not have enough refrigerant to cool the air, it cannot perform it's job. This sparks two issues, not only is your home too hot and uncomfortable, but it also causes the condenser to work overtime to make up for the lack of Freon. To put it in perspective, a 10% loss in Freon will cost the home roughly 20% more in electrical costs. Refrigerant leaks commonly happen due to vibrations of the unit while it is operating. Refrigerant will not evaporate or disappear out of your system so if you find your coolant level is low you can be assured there is a leak and should fix it as soon as possible.

6. Clogged Drain Lines

Commonly the drain line will become clogged with things such as dirt and algae. If the drain is clogged, the drain pan will fill up and cause water to leak over leading to water damage. Make sure you check the drain line when you perform regular maintenance to your heating and cooling unit.

7. Corroded Gas Valve 

The gas valve allows gas to flow from your gas line to your unit.  The furnace cannot run correctly without the right amount of fuel. Overtime this valve can get corroded causing issues with the travel of gas. When this happens the valve needs to be replaced to ensure enough gas is reaching your furnace so it can run properly.

8. Burnt-Out Capacitors

There are two types of capacitors within your system, the run capacitor and the start. The run capacitors are used to help the motors in your unit run at a consistent speed. The start capacitors are used to give the compressor an increase in starting torque. Sometimes the symptoms for faulty capacitors are difficult to find. If your capacitor goes out completely the blower motor and compressor will not work at all giving a much more obvious sign that something is wrong. The first thing you will notice if your run capacitor is bad is that air will not be delivered through your vents. If your start capacitor is bad then you will notice that your air conditioner is not cooling the air as much as expected. If either capacitor burns out, it will need to be replaced for your HVAC unit in order to work properly.

9. Dirty Condenser Coil

Condenser coils are located outside along with the compressor. Because it is exposed to outdoor elements it is important to remember that it must be cleaned on a yearly basis. Cleaning can be simply done with a water hose (when the unit is not operating). This is something that most times can be done on your own. If the dirt and grime are bad enough coil cleaner such as NuCalgon's Tri-Clean can get the job done. However, when such products are used, we suggest you call a professional to handle these strong cleaning chemicals.

10. Unbalanced Dampers

If you have noticed certain rooms in your home cool/heat faster or slower than other rooms you may find that your dampers are not balanced. The air that comes out of the register vents must travel through a series of ducts before it is able to reach that specific room. Many times if one room is receiving less air then other rooms of the house there is restricted airflow within a duct. Adjust your dampers to ensure the correct balance which will help each room of the house receive the correct amount of cooled or heated air.

 

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