Air conditioning systems can sound like a very simple thing in concept, but they are much more than a box that pumps cold air into the home. Not only can each AC unit be completely different in how they function and the parts that they use, but they often have unique specs or details that you need to consider when working on them.
Eventually, any AC unit will fail, either due to direct damage or through naturally wearing out over time. Maintaining your AC can help, as can occasional repairs and cleaning sessions – and knowing when to tune up your AC unit can make a huge difference to how long it lasts.
But how can you tell when you need to tune up your AC and make some emergency repairs, and what does that process actually involve? Here is a full breakdown of everything you will want to consider before you try to take the thing apart all by yourself.
What are Tune-Ups For?
A tune-up is not a specific thing that always follows the same process. When you tune up your AC unit, you are basically getting it checked and optimized, allowing it to run at peak efficiency by cleaning, repairing, and changing anything that is holding it back.
This is different from outright repairing the unit since there might not actually be any damaged parts to swap out: tuning an AC unit up involves looking at all of the potential faults or issues it is suffering from, then fixing those problems to squeeze out as much potential as possible from the AC system.
For example, this might mean that you need to clean dirt out of the vent and fan or adjust some digital settings to try and make it more efficient overall. In other cases, it could mean completely replacing the fan or even changing the wiring system.
How to Tell if a Tune-Up is Due
There are a lot of different factors that go into judging how well an AC unit is operating, but obvious signs of damage and distress are important when checking over your home’s air conditioning system. Knowing when to check the system can be just as important as knowing how to do it.
Strange noises are often a very clear sign that something is wrong with your AC unit. You will likely have gotten used to how the system sounds if you have lived around it for a long time, which can make it all the more obvious when something is starting to go wrong.
Many people assume that banging is the only sign of a major problem, but this is not actually the case. Buzzing, humming, whistling, hissing, and countless other distinct sounds can all represent other problems, some more dangerous or urgent than others.
For example, a buzzing noise often means that the airflow has been blocked and that the system is forcing air past the blockage. A humming noise, on the other hand, might be the sound of the motor or electrical system starting to wear out and gradually dying.
There can also be raspy noises coming from the blades, which often means that the fans are either damaged or just turning at a reduced speed. Of course, banging can be the most alarming since it means that something is repeatedly impacting the inside of the unit itself.
Whatever the noise, you want to double-check your system as soon as possible. The earlier you can catch problems, the less damage they will do overall.
Higher bills mean that your system is being less efficient and using more energy, which can often be a clear sign of something going wrong with the whole unit. While you can obviously expect bills to rise if you are using the unit more, it is the inexplicable increases that you want to watch out for.
As an AC unit gets older, it can often lose efficiency over time if it is not properly maintained. Dust and debris can slow or block the fans, clog up important vents, or even get in the electrical components – all while the unit itself will wear down due to lack of care and repairs.
Tuning up your AC unit when your bills start to climb can help knock them back down and also extends the life of the current system to ensure that you will not have to buy a completely new one later on. Regular checks can be incredibly valuable when it comes to handling your AC system.
If your AC system is not cooling a room correctly, then something is clearly wrong. An air conditioning unit is meant to cool rooms down, so room-temperature or above-room-temperature air will only make things worse – and often hints at some major faults in the system.
This can usually be the result of a badly-cleaned set of air conditioner coils, although it could also be old or damaged air filters. However, one of the most common causes is a lack of refrigerant, which can often happen if you forget that you need to recharge it.
Another common explanation is an electrical fault, such as a damaged fuse or a tripped breaker that is sending power to the wrong places (or blocking it from reaching parts of the system at all). In extreme cases, the unit may simply have damaged parts that require major overhauls or replacements.
Poor Air Flow
Sometimes, the air is still cool but not able to flow correctly. Without a constant, reliable airflow, your AC system will give you a very reduced level of cooling and overall efficiency, making it expensive to run.
When this happens, there is often a good reason for the system not to be functioning properly. Clogged air filters and major air or refrigerant leaks can be common causes, and fixing these is important if you want to avoid increased bills or much higher repair costs in the future.
If the flow of air seems to be getting weaker, then you should absolutely get your AC unit checked for any major issues. It could always be a technical fault or even the entire unit wearing down from years of improper maintenance.
If humidity is not kept under control, then your home can get increasingly hard to maintain at a comfortable level of water vapor and heat. A damaged AC system may not be capable of reducing your room’s humidity enough, which can often make your home far less comfortable.
This usually tends to be due to a refrigerant leak or just your system running out of refrigerant as a whole. Recharging it can generally be enough to solve the problem, although it might also be the result of an evaporator coil not functioning properly due to temperature issues.
An awful odor coming from your AC unit can usually mean that something has clogged it, although there is not just one single cause of this. Depending on where your AC system is, it could be anything from fungi and mold to dead or trapped animals.
The only way to fix this problem is to check the AC system and clean it out, either yourself or with the help of an expert. You might also want to try and combat the smell as it fades away, usually with nicer smells or something to contain and neutralize the odor.
There is also a small chance that the smell might actually be the wires breaking down since damaged wires can sometimes spark, smoke, or even begin to burn their rubber casings. This is rare, but it can be a major cause for concern, so be sure to check the cause of the smell as soon as you notice it.
If you notice anything leaking out of your AC system, then there is definitely something wrong. A leak could either be water coming out of a clogged drainage pipe or the refrigerant leaking out of the system itself. While both are bad, leaking refrigerant is a much more significant issue.
Repairing these leaks can be tough, so it is important to make sure that you get a specialist in unless you know exactly what you are doing. AC tune-ups are not easy, even if you are just patching a leak, so you do not want to damage anything by attempting it yourself without the right tools or skills.
What does a Tune-Up Involve?
While tune-ups are not a defined process, they are often tailored towards the specific issues that your AC unit might be having and the general situation that you are in. Some elements of a tune-up will always be the same, but others might only be relevant if the issue is affecting a certain part of the system.
Low refrigerant levels can often lead to a range of different problems, so this is one of the first checks that many professionals will do. If the refrigerant is not leaking, then some issues can be resolved by simply recharging the refrigerant levels and letting the AC unit run normally again.
Of course, even if other issues are present, these levels have to be checked anyway. Low refrigerant levels can often contribute to other problems quite severely and might make existing issues worse over time if you keep the AC unit operating.
The main point that many experts will focus on when during a tune-up is a full inspection of the core parts that make up the AC unit. If your AC system is not working quite how it should be, then there is a high chance that something has gone wrong internally.
These issues might only be something small, like dust building up from lack of cleaning, but it can still be important to fully inspect and clear out an AC unit before any long-term damage begins to build inside the system. It only takes one small mistake to cause a slow spiral.
This also includes checks of the electrical components, mostly to make sure that they are not going to overheat or fluctuate in terms of power. Performance and efficiency reasons aside, you want your AC unit to use safe wiring and reliable components that will not break down easily.
A large part of a tune-up might also include things like replacing air filters and swapping out certain components as necessary. This is a small difference, but it can have a huge impact on how well your AC system operates and the overall quality of the cool air that you get.
Not all AC units work in the same way, so you do not need to worry about following the same steps as a different model. There may be specific ways that certain things can be swapped out and/or cleaned, so be sure to read any instructions before you try and do any of this yourself.
Tweaks to the motor – mostly by oiling and lubricating it to keep it running smoothly – can sometimes be necessary. This might not fix any immediate problems on its own, but it helps improve the efficiency of the system and reduces wear and tear in the long term.
Lubrication is going to be different for every AC system, so it needs to be handled on an individual level. Specialists and experts are usually the best at knowing when and where to lubricate the unit.
If you are looking for an AC tune-up, then you should turn to the experts first and foremost – ideally, local experts. For example, getting an AC Tune up service in Woodland Hills, CA, can help people in that area get immediate assistance if their AC breaks down during a heatwave or hot spell.
Make sure to stay within your own limits. It is not a good idea to try and fix something yourself if you do not really understand it, especially not if your fixes would involve doing something dangerous like fiddling with the wiring.
Repairing your AC unit is often a very urgent situation, as is maintaining it. Do not stress too much about what you need specifically – you can always call an expert first and have them take a look at your system, rather than trying to check it all yourself.