The hottest days of the summer are here! The thermometer is soaring and the humidity is so high you could wring out the air like a wet shirt. You can almost guarantee you’ll be uncomfortable as soon as you step outside. Good thing your home is air-conditioned. However, air conditioning and HVAC units do not last forever — 12 years is the average lifespan. The moment they fail is usually when you need them the most.

There is good news! Not every A/C problem is an emergency. Here are a few issues you may encounter and what to do about them. Knowing when to call a professional can keep you from getting hot under the collar.

I’m not as comfortable as I was last year or the air coming out of the registers doesn’t feel cold: There are a number of things that could be causing this.

  • Thermostat – check your thermostat to make sure it is set to cool and at a temperature that’s lower than the ambient temperature in your home. Turning the thermostat down a degree or two can make a difference.
  • Filters – check the air filters. Airflow is important and a dirty filter will reduce airflow. Depending on the quality of the filter and the number of people and pets living in the home, the filter should be changed every 30-60 days.
  • Supply and Return Vents – check to make sure there is nothing directly in front of the vents throughout your home, such as furniture or curtains.
  • Outdoor Condenser – make sure there is a minimum clearance of 2 feet on the sides of the unit and 5 feet on top. Make sure the equipment is free of leaves and grass clippings.

If everything looks clean and clear, the problem may be something you can’t see. Call your local A/C professional to identify and solve the problem.

The air conditioning system makes strange noises when it kicks on or when it’s running: This could be caused by something as simple as a loose screw or, more seriously, by a faulty motor or fan blade. The unit may need a simple tightening of parts or a complete replacement. Either way, its best to call your local A/C professional who knows how to diagnose and repair the problem.

Your air conditioning is causing water damage: Water damage can spread causing major property losses while excess moisture can attract pests or promote mold growth within 24 hours. The likely causes could include a clogged condensate line or ice formation on the coils. These issues will not only cause damage to your home but could also damage the system itself, leading to even more extensive and costly repairs. The best way to prevent water from seriously damaging your home? Call your local A/C professional as soon as you discover a problem.

Your air conditioning is experiencing electrical issues: Electrical problems are not issues that should wait until normal working hours. If your air conditioner is experiencing issues such as tripping your breaker, creating a burning electrical smell or dimming the lights in your home, it is best to call for emergency A/C repair service. Electrical issues are serious and are not do-it-yourself projects (unless you’re a licensed electrician). Your A/C professional has the experience and the technical knowledge needed to identify the source of the problem. They can solve it quickly and restore your system’s ability to keep your home cool while reducing the risk of serious electrical issues.

Your air conditioning system constantly cycles on and off: If the unit does this, the problem could be that the thermostat isn’t calibrated properly or that there is an issue with the condenser, the evaporator coil, or the fan. These issues require the services of your local A/C professional. While the unit may be cooling your home, the constant on and off could place a lot of strain on the equipment and cause a larger issue in the future.

Your air conditioning is working too hard: Summertime is a true test of endurance for any home air conditioner. Overtaxing the system by requiring it to work harder than expected will increase your risk of a cooling emergency. Things you can do yourself to reduce the load on the system? Don’t turn your thermostat lower than necessary, turn off the A/C while you’re away from home, and replace any dirty air filters. These steps can prevent some of the common causes of overheating and system failure and can prevent the need for emergency service repair.

Your air conditioning won’t work at all: If your A/C system isn’t turning on or blowing air throughout your home, the first things you should check are your circuit breaker and your thermostat. If it is receiving power and the thermostat is set cooler than the temperature of your home, the system should activate. If it doesn’t, you need to call for emergency A/C repair service. The longer your home’s air conditioner remains inactive, the more uncomfortable it will become in the summertime heat.

Call your air conditioning professional, not for emergency service, but for regular maintenance: Routine maintenance is one of the most important things you can do to prevent the need for emergency service calls. Have your system professionally checked, alerting you of wear and tear or other issues that could be silently getting ready to cause a breakdown. Taking steps to maintain your air conditioner before it breaks down can help you avoid the causes of many of the summer season’s emergency A/C repair calls.

Even a well-maintained air conditioner will lose efficiency and reliability over time as the system grows older and incurs more wear and tear. Each component in your air conditioner is designed to last for a set number of years. Once it reaches this age, it will become more likely to fail. If your air conditioner is ten years old, it’s time to start thinking about A/C equipment replacement before you experience a breakdown on the hottest day of the year.

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