Summer is in full swing, and that means cranking up the air conditioning for many people. But what do you do when your air conditioner doesn't turn on? Before you start sweating, check out these basic troubleshooting steps to see if you can get your AC up and running again.
1. First, check the settings on your thermostat.
Make sure it's set to "cool" and that the desired temperature on the thermostat is lower than the current room temperature. While you're at it, check to see if the fan is set to "auto" or "on." If it's on "auto," the fan will only run when the air conditioner is cooling air. The "on" setting tells the fan to run continuously, even if the AC isn't cooling air.
If your thermostat is blank, it may need new batteries, or something might have tripped the circuit breaker associated with it—which brings us to our next step...
2. Check your home's circuit breaker panel.
Air conditioning systems draw a lot of power through their electrical circuits. If a brief power surge happens, this can cause the circuit's circuit breaker to trip and stop electricity from flowing through the circuit. When that happens, your AC can't turn on.
If a circuit breaker has tripped, it will switch from the "on" position to the "off" position. Reset any tripped breakers by flipping them back to the "on" position.
3. Make sure your HVAC system's power switches are on.
There are two power switches associated with most central air conditioners. One switch powers the indoor unit, and the other powers the outdoor unit. Both switches need to be in the "on" position for your AC to work.
Typically, you can find the switch for the indoor unit near your system's furnace or air handler. You can find the switch for the outdoor unit next to the outdoor unit, usually in a metal box on the exterior of your home.
4. See if the air filter is dirty and needs a replacement.
A dirty air filter can restrict airflow, straining your AC and making it more likely to overheat and shut off. Most homeowners should replace their air filters at least once every three months during the cooling season.
If you don't know when you last replaced your air filter, or if it looks visibly dirty, go ahead and replace it. It's a good idea to keep several filters on hand so you can change them as needed.
5. Check for plants and debris crowding around the outdoor unit.
Landscaping, loose leaves, dirt, and miscellaneous debris can block airflow through the outdoor unit, causing your AC to overheat and turn off. Remove any debris blocking airflow, and make sure there are at least two feet of clearance around the unit and several feet of vertical clearance. Outdoor AC units usually release the most heat from the top, so they need plenty of overhead room to breathe.
6. If you know how, try resetting the unit.
Your air conditioner might start acting strangely after a power surge trips the circuit breaker. The good news is that sometimes all it needs is a hard reset. Refer to your system's owner's manual for specific instructions on how to correctly reset your particular system to avoid inadvertently creating more problems.
What if I still need help?
If you've tried all of these things and your air conditioner still won't turn on, it's time to call a professional. At Rescue Air Heating and Cooling, our highly-trained HVAC technicians can quickly diagnose the problem and get your AC up and running again so you can stay cool all summer long. Give us a call today at (972) 201-3253 for AC service in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metro.