Having your air conditioner break down can be extremely frustrating – especially in Las Vegas. Here are a few things that the average homeowner or renter can do if it happens.
What to do when your air conditioner stops working.
1. Check your thermostat to make sure it is set properly – the system switch should be in the Cool position the thermostat it is set low enough, but not too low. (Setting it below 70 can cause systems to form ice and stop cooling.)
2. If the thermostat shows "low battery" or has no display, try changing the batteries. There are some thermostats that will not work when the batteries die, while others only use the batteries to back up the program.
3. Check your air filter. Dirty air filters can cause your system to form ice and stop working. If the system is iced, turn it off for around 4 hours and then try again. If it still doesn't cool properly, call a reputable repair company.
4. Check your circuit breaker or switch at the furnace to make sure it is on. Sometimes the only thing wrong is that a switch got turned off accidentally. If you find a breaker tripped, only reset it one time. If it trips again, call a repair company right away.
5. When your system fails, usually it is best to turn it off to prevent further damage. Don't let a minor problem turn into a major repair.
6. Call a reputable air conditioning repair company. While it can be tempting to call a "handyman" or "friend-of-a-friend", they aren't properly licensed to deal with refrigerants and rarely have the insurance that protects you and your home. Check with friends and neighbors to get referrals for companies that have done good work at fair prices. A couple of great resources are the Southern Nevada Air Conditioning Service Contractors Association (SNARSCA) website where you can click on "Find a Contractor", and the Nevada State Contractors Board website where you can search a contractor's license status and see if there are complaints.
Things you can do to prevent many air conditioner failures.
1. Make sure your system gets the attention it needs. All manufacturers recommend annual servicing at minimum. Proper servicing prevents many failures, and makes sure you are wasting energy on a system that isn't running up to its potential.
2. Change your air filter regularly and don't use highly restrictive air filters. Cleanable filters can be very restrictive to air flow, so clean them at least once a month.
3. Don't set your thermostat too low. Below 70 degrees can cause many systems to form ice. Setting a thermostat low doesn't help the system get to your desired temperature even one second faster, but it can cause problems if your forget and leave it set low.
4. Don't turn your thermostat OFF during the day on very hot days. The strain placed on a system trying to recover from very high indoor temperatures can shorten the life of the system, and the high load on the system is almost never worth the intended energy savings. It is okay to turn the temperature up when you leave, but usually no higher than 82 – 85 degrees.
5. Don't close too many air registers. Closing more than 25% of the air registers can cause poor air flow and can lead to system icing and shortened system life.
6. Check the outdoor unit to make sure it is clear of debris, weeds and other vegetation. One and a half to two feet of clearance around the unit is good. Outdoor units need a huge amount of air flow and anything that blocks or restricts air flow can cause the system to perform poorly, work harder, and have a shorter life.
7. If your outdoor unit is on the ground and you are a little bit handy, you can clean your outdoor coil yourself. Be sure to disconnect the power before you start and leave it off for 30 minutes after you finish. Never direct the water at the fan or compressor. The idea is to rinse the dirt and debris out of the tiny fins so that the system moves air better. If you are unsure about doing this, ask your service technician to show you how.
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