4 A/C Repairs You Can DIY, and 4 You Should Leave to the Professionals

Homeowners of all skill levels can do their part to keep their A/C and HVAC systems in good working order. But, some jobs are best left to the professionals. Here are four A/C  repairs you can handle at home, and four that you should call in a pro to handle.

Repairs you can DIY

1. Replacing your filters

A dirty filter is an inefficient filter, which will waste energy and can even damage your unit. When filters get dirty and clogged with weeks of dust, dirt and other particles, the result is restricted air flow from your ducts. With less air flowing, it’ll take longer for your air conditioner to cool things down. A longer cooling cycle leads to higher energy bills. To keep your system at its most efficient, you should replace your filters once every 30 days.

Replacing your filters not only improves air quality—it can save you money as well. According to the US Department of Energy, replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner’s monthly energy consumption by 5% to 15%. That’s definitely nothing to sneeze at.

2. Thermostat troubleshooting

When your thermostat isn’t working, there are a few easy troubleshooting steps you can take care of on your own before calling in a professional.

Replacing the batteries

If your thermostat isn’t responding, the solution may be as simple as replacing the batteries. Some thermostats are wired to a home’s electrical system, but many use batteries. Battery-powered thermostats typically display a low battery warning at least a month before the battery goes dead completely, but this can be easily overlooked.

To locate the batteries in your thermostat, take off its cover. The back panel of the cover should tell you where the batteries are located and give you instructions for replacing them. If not, consult your thermostat’s manual.

Cleaning the thermostat

Dust, dirt, and other debris can disturb the components inside your thermostat. To clean your thermostat, start by removing the cover to access the inside. Then, gently dust and wipe away contaminants with a soft dry cloth. For tough-to-reach spots, use a can of compressed air. Once everything looks clean, put the cover back on and see if your thermostat will power on.

Resetting the thermostat

A tripped circuit breaker could be the cause behind your unresponsive thermostat. Power outages and surges can overwhelm your air conditioner’s circuit, causing it to trip. You’ll need to locate your home’s circuit breaker box to confirm if this is happening in your home. The exact location differs, but you can typically find a circuit breaker box in the garage, a closet, the laundry room, or on the exterior of your home.

To reset the circuit breaker, look inside the breaker box and find the one labeled air conditioner or HVAC. If it’s been turned from on to a neutral position, reset the circuit by turning it off and then back on. Make sure to wait 30 minutes before trying to turn your thermostat on, to avoid tripping the circuit breaker again. It’s important to know the risk of getting shocked and be careful when working with a circuit breaker—if you’re unsure about it, you can always contact an electrician to help.

3. Cleaning the condenser coils

Within the outdoor unit of your air conditioner are condensor coils. They are located surrounding the exterior of the unit and are important components that work along with the evaporator coil to remove heat from your home. Over time, the condensor coils can become blocked by dust, dirt, and outdoor debris like leaves and dead grass. When these blockages start to reduce airflow, the overall efficiency of your system will decrease. Fortunately, it’s relatively simple to clean the condensor coils and restore optimal airflow to your system.

Step 1: Inspect the coils

Start by taking a look at the condensor coils. Keep an eye out for any signs of noticeable damage, such as dented coil fins or signs of corrosion. If the coils are very damaged, it’s best to skip DIY-ing this task and call in a professional instead. But, if there are little to no signs of damage, you can proceed with cleaning the coils on your own.

Step 2: Straighten the coil fins

Coil fins can become bent over time, but you can straighten them out without much effort. To do so, you’ll need an adjustable fin comb, which you can find at any hardware store. These inexpensive tools have small prongs that can straighten coil fins and remove small debris that would be hard to reach otherwise.

Step 3: Clean the coils

You can use a soft brush attachment to vacuum away debris from the exterior fins, or a hose to wash away dust until the surface is clean and clear. If you use a hose, make sure and wait until the unit is dry before turning the power back on. This is also a good time to take a look at any plant growth near the base or sides of the unit. A good rule of thumb is to keep all plants and weeds at least two feet away, so that they won’t interfere with efficiency or cause damage as they continue to grow.

4. Clearing out debris

Fallen branches, leaves, dust, dirt, debris—you name it—your outdoor HVAC unit is exposed to it all. Giving it a good deep clean in the spring is the best way to get things back in good working order.

First things first: make sure to turn off the power to the unit before you attempt any sort of cleaning. Usually, you can do this by using the shutoff switch, level, or fuse box nearby. If there isn’t one, you can turn off the power using your home’s main circuit breaker.

Repairs you should leave to the professionals

1. Fixing refrigerant leaks

Refrigerant plays a vital role in heat exchange. This is the process that results in cool air for your home. Refrigerant leaks are one of the most common problems that result in a significant amount of air conditioner repairs. Common signs of refrigerant leaks include uneven cooling, an air conditioner that blows hot air, and an air conditioner that shuts off prematurely. If you have a refrigerant leak, simply adding more refrigerant isn’t a solution. An HVAC technician will need to work to restore the system’s refrigerant levels to the manufacturer’s specifications.

2. Installing a new unit

Installing an air conditioner requires careful consideration, including the size of your home, which way it faces, how many people live there, and other specifications. With the comfort and efficiency of your home on the line, you should work with an experienced professional to make sure everything is accounted for in your installation.

3. Annual maintenance

If you want to keep your HVAC system working at its best for years to come, annual maintenance is key. Since maintenance involves working closely with the inner workings of your system, a professional’s experience is necessary to ensure the job is done right. At Chas Roberts, our 26-point maintenance plan involves checking the system from top to bottom, from major components to minor nuts and bolts, to make sure no problems go undetected.

4. Troubleshooting a noisy air conditioner

New or strange noises are your air conditioner’s way of telling you that something is wrong. Problematic noises can include:

  • Squealing
  • Grinding
  • Buzzing
  • Hissing
  • Scraping
  • Continuous loud pops or bangs

These noises can all indicate a problem with key components of your air conditioner, including the compressor, condenser coil, or blower. To narrow down the exact cause of your air conditioner’s strange noises, it’s best to work with a professional who can identify and repair the component that’s responsible.

Need a repair? Work with the pros at Chas Roberts

Our experienced technicians are ready to tackle all your air conditioning repairs, no matter how big, how small, or how complicated they may be. Contact us to get started.