When your home A/C unit is working properly, it can hum along for years with proper bi-annual maintenance. If problems develop, your system will stop humming and start hinting that it needs some extra TLC.

“Outside of changing the filters and cleaning the condenser coil regularly,” said Jacob Wheeler, Vice President for Comfort Technologies, “the best thing homeowners can do to extend the life of their A/C unit is to learn how to spot underlying problems. If a sign crops up, they should call a qualified HVAC technician immediately.”

To help you identify potential issues, Comfort Technologies created this Top Seven list of tell-tale signs:

Humidity. An A/C system is essentially a dehumidifier. When running properly, the evaporator coil removes moisture from the air. If your home feels muggy or humid, there’s a good chance your system is not running to its full capability.

Noise. If your outside unit starts running louder than usual — or makes a grinding, knocking, or squealing sound — your compressor is struggling to run properly. Call a professional right away before the system grinds to a halt.

Short Cycling. When your A/C unit is turning on and off too frequently or randomly, it’s called short cycling. There are several common reasons, including:

  • Clogged or dirty air filter.
  • An over-sized air conditioner. If a system is too large for area it’s cooling, it will cool the area too quickly.
  • Bad safety switch.
  • Plugged filter drier.
  • System is either over or under charged, resulting in a bad refrigerant charge.

Other than a clogged air filter, which you can easily change yourself, call a professional for assistance.

Higher energy bills. Sometimes people don’t notice the signs of a struggling A/C system until their monthly energy bill arrives. A dramatic increase in your energy bill is a clue that your system is struggling to cool your home and running too much.

Ice on the unit(s) or water in the attic. Ice can form when there’s restricted air flow or a low refrigerant charge. Ice is a sign that something is seriously wrong rather than a sign of an overtaxed system.  Additionally, if no one notices the ice before it starts to melt, water damage can and often does occur.

Clogged drain pan. When working properly, A/C units create condensation. This condensation is collected in a drain pan below the indoor unit and piped to a drain. If systems have not been properly maintained, the pipe that leads to the drain will become clogged. As the system runs more during the summer months, the clogged line will no longer be able to support the amount of water coming from the drain pan. This typically results in water overflowing the drain pan and spilling into the attic.

Air over outdoor unit. When working properly, the air blowing from your outdoor A/C unit should be warm. This indicates that the warm air inside your home is being properly pushed out by the system. If the air blowing from your outdoor unit feels similar to or cooler than the air inside your home, something’s wrong with your system.

Have you noticed one or more of these problems with your HVAC system? Contact Comfort Technologies for a free in-home visit and estimate.