Common Central Air Malfunctions: Causes and Prevention

When temperatures are on the rise, there’s nothing better than stepping away from the heat into a perfectly cool and comfortable home. To be able to rely on that comfort, you need to have a working air conditioner.

Like any other complex appliance, your central air conditioner is capable of malfunction. Knowing what the most common AC issues are — and what you can do to prevent them  — is the fastest way to ensure cool comfort whenever you need it.

What causes AC to malfunction?

A building’s central air conditioning malfunctions when something inside isn’t operating the way it’s supposed to. Common causes include dirty filters, refrigerant leaks, problems with electrical components, frozen evaporator coils and issues with sensors or drainage. 

Most of these problems can be solved with the help of a trustworthy air conditioning repair partner, but there are also maintenance steps that can be taken to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Dirty Air Filters

One of the most common culprits behind central air malfunctions is a dirty air filter. Over time your air filters collect dust, debris and allergens — reducing airflow and straining the system. As a result, your AC has to work harder to maintain the level of cool you’re looking for, leading to potential breakdowns and increased energy consumption.

Prevention Tip: Check your air filters once a month and replace them when they appear dirty — easy!

Refrigerant Leaks

The refrigerant is what makes your central air conditioner capable of cooling external air to desired temperatures quickly. Leaks in the lines it travels through can happen over time and when they do, your system is less able to cool the air as consistently.

Prevention Tip: Schedule regular maintenance. One of the things all cooling technicians inspect for are refrigerant leaks, making them able to notice any small issues before they become big ones. In particular, if you notice a decrease in cooling performance, strange hissing noises, or ice buildup on the refrigerant lines, contact a qualified HVAC professional immediately.

Electrical Problems

Electrical issues are a malfunction that can suddenly and unexpectedly disrupt your central air’s performance. These issues can cause your system to stop working or short-cycle, affecting efficiency and putting strain on the compressor.

Prevention Tip: Be aware of common signs of issues with your AC’s electrical components. If the breaker is frequently tripping, if you’re having trouble getting it to shut on or off, or your electrical bill unexpectedly spikes it might be time to call for professional help.

Frozen Evaporator Coils

Frozen evaporator coils are often caused by restricted airflow due to dirty air filters, blocked vents or fan issues. When the coils freeze, the AC’s cooling capacity is significantly reduced.

Prevention Tip: Change your air filters out every month and make sure all your supply and return vents stay clean and unobstructed. If you notice ice buildup on the evaporator coils, turn off your AC immediately and let it thaw while you troubleshoot the problem.

Sensor Malfunction

If your central air conditioner’s sensors are malfunctioning, the unit itself becomes unable to accurately sense ambient temperatures. Issues with sensors are most commonly caused by improper positioning or build-up on the sensor themselves.

Prevention Tip: Make sure you know where your AC unit’s sensors are and make sure they remain free from dirt, dust and debris.

What should I do if I face a central air AC malfunction?

Preventative maintenance and proactive care are the keys to a long-lasting and efficient central air system. When that doesn’t work, you can call on the reliable local experts at Sedgwick to help get your air conditioner working again.

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