What to Do When Your Air Conditioner Stops Working

It’s never fun when your air conditioner suddenly stops working, especially in the summer heat. But, don’t assume your system is broken or in need of an expensive repair. The solution may be simple enough for you to fix on your own. And if not, it’s easy to call in a professional to get to the bottom of things. Here are six steps you should take when your air conditioner stops working.

1.      Stay calm

First things first, remember to stay calm. Not having air conditioning is a big deal, but stress can increase your body temperature, making things feel even worse. Remember that, even if you’re unable to fix the problem yourself, you can always call the experts at Chas Roberts for reliable service whenever an emergency strikes—even after hours, on the weekend, or on holidays.

2.      Check your thermostat

Make sure your thermostat is on, and that it’s set to “cool” and not “heat.” It may sound simple, but even if you’re certain you set it correctly, it’s worth taking a moment to check.

If your thermostat is off, the batteries might be drained. Wall thermostats typically take AA or AAA alkaline batteries, or 3V lithium batteries. You’ll usually need to change your batteries about once a year. Often times, a low battery indicator appears on the display when it’s time to replace, but this can be overlooked.

If you’re unsure of how to replace your thermostat batteries, consult your owner’s manual for instructions specific to your model. In general, to replace your batteries in a thermostat that does not have an external battery compartment, you’ll follow these steps:

  1. Pull the thermostat box off its wall mounted plate
  2. Turn the box over and use a small screwdriver to open the battery slot
  3. Discard the old batteries and replace them with new ones, then close the battery slot
  4. Put the thermostat box back onto the wall mount and slide it down until you hear it snap or click back in place

If your thermostat has an external battery compartment, press down on the top right corner of the thermostat to reveal the compartment. Then, remove the compartment cover to replace the batteries before snapping it back into place.

3.      Check the circuit breakers

Power surges, storms, and sweltering temperatures can overload the circuit, turning off the power to your air conditioner. There are two places you may need to check to see if a circuit breaker was tripped.

 Fuse box/Electrical service panel

An electrical service panel serves as the switchboard operating center for all the electricity in your home. In an older home built before 1960, you’ll find a fuse box that serves the same purpose. In both cases, these components receive incoming power and distribute that power to each circuit that controls things like your appliances, light switches, and your air conditioner.

You’ll likely find your electrical service panel or fuse box in the garage or in a utility closet. A tripped breaker is easy to spot; while the other breakers will be switched to the “on” position, a tripped one will be switched to “off.” Wait 30 minutes before turning your air conditioner back on after switching the breaker on. If the breaker immediately trips again, you’ll need to work with a professional to determine the cause. The problem could be:

  • Fan-motor malfunctions
  • Refrigerantleaks
  • Compressor problems
  • Frozen evaporator coil
  • Loose wiring or electrical component failure

 A/C disconnect

Also known as a switch box or fuse box, an A/C disconnect can be found outside your home, close to the outdoor A/C unit. The same conditions that cause indoor circuit breakers to trip can cause the switches in the A/C disconnect to trip as well. While it’s safe to flip the switches in your home’s electrical service panel, attempting to do the same for an A/C disconnect is dangerous. You’ll need to work with an HVAC technician or an electrician if you suspect your A/C disconnect has been tripped.



4.      Check your air conditioner drain pan

Your air conditioner does more than just cool your home, it also dehumidifies it by drawing heat and moisture from the air. This humidity turns into condensation, which can back up in a drain pan connected to the indoor portion of your air conditioner. Some air conditioners automatically shut off when the condensate line becomes clogged. Other signs of clogs include:

  • Water leakage coming from your ceiling or attic
  • Stained ceiling or walls
  • A muggy, humid feeling in your home
  • Unfamiliar or unpleasant smells due to mold/algae buildup

A wet/dry vacuum, garden hose, or natural mixture of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide can break up clogs. We cover how to fix, and prevent, these clogs in our guide Everything You Need to Know About Condensate Drain Lines.

5.      Contact a professional

When you reach the end of your troubleshooting tasks, it’s time to call in a professional. A broken air conditioner is an HVAC emergency, and time is of the essence—especially during the heat of summer. At Chas Roberts, our emergency services include support on weekends and holidays at no additional cost. It’s our way of ensuring that we’ll always be there when you need us.

6.      Consider a replacement

A breakdown every now and then may not be anything to worry about, but if your air conditioner spends more time broken than operational, it might be time to replace your air conditioner. When important parts fail, and the system continually breaks down, it’s often more cost effective to replace the system altogether than to pursue band-aid solutions and repairs.

While it’s a significant investment, a new air conditioner pays off over time in several ways. With a new system that uses less energy, you’ll enjoy lower energy bills and a smaller carbon footprint. Additionally, many utility companies and government agencies offer tax credits and rebates that serve as incentives for homeowners to switch to more energy-efficient air conditioners. Reliability, reduced downtime, and less frequent repairs round out the benefits of saying goodbye to your old air conditioner and hello a new one.

Your air conditioning resource: Chas Roberts

Whether you’re dealing with an emergency or looking to upgrade to a new system, trust Chas Roberts for a smooth experience from beginning to end. We have over 75 years’ experience installing, maintaining, and repairing air conditioning systems throughout the Valley. Contact us to get started.