For Cincinnati Homeowners: Top 15 Summer Cooling Problems

During the summer season, air conditioners and heat pumps across the Cincinnati area work overtime to keep homes cool and comfortable. However, air conditioner troubles can quickly put a damper on your family’s summer fun. Hopefully, cooling system problems won’t be an issue in your home this year, but if they do arise, check out our helpful guide which explains the causes behind the most common air conditioner malfunctions that occur over the summer.

1. Air Conditioner Doesn’t Cool Well When It’s Hot Outside

During heat waves and days with high temperatures, you’re likely to notice that your home feels warmer, too. This lack of cooling causes many homeowners to wonder if something is wrong with the home’s cooling system.

Many times, it’s normal that your air conditioner won’t cool your home as effectively when outdoor temperatures are at the extreme. Most air conditioners provide efficient cooling when achieving a temperature differential of 20 degrees or less between the outdoor air and the temperature you desire inside the home.

So, if it is 95 degrees outside and you have your thermostat set to cool the home to 70 degrees, your system is likely to experience some struggle achieving your ideal conditions. While airflow restrictions can worsen this issue, typically the best solution is lowering your home’s cooling load.

2. Warm Air Blows Out from Vents

When the cooling system runs, you should feel cool air coming from the vents throughout your living areas. If the air feels warm, improper thermostat settings could be to blame. Your thermostat should be set to COOL mode and the fan set to AUTO. When the system’s fan is set to the ON setting, warm air will be circulated during times between cooling cycles as the blower fan constantly runs.

Warm air blowing from vents may also be the result when system issues limit the heat transfer required for cooling. Dirty coils may limit the amount of heat that can be released outdoors. Items and debris blocking the fins of the outdoor unit restrict airflow and make heat transfer difficult for your air conditioner or heat pump. If the system suffers from a refrigerant leak, there may not be enough refrigerant to properly perform the cooling process.

3. Low Airflow Throughout the Home

When you feel very little airflow from vents inside your home, possible causes include:

  • Leaks or obstructions in your ducts prevent the proper volume of cooled air from traveling to its destination.
  • If your blower fan isn’t operating at the correct speed, airflow will feel low from supply vents inside the home. Buildup of debris and grime can restrict operation.
  • Airflow blockages originating from the outdoor unit due to debris or nearby items may cause low airflow from vents inside the house.

4. Air Conditioner Turns Repeatedly On and Off 

Cooling cycles should not be quick – they should last around 15 minutes on average. While the length of a cooling cycle may be a little more or less depending on current conditions, the cycle should never last just a few minutes.

These quick cycles indicate an issue called short cycling. Short cycling is often the result of airflow restrictions in the system, which lead to overheated components that may force the system to stop in order to prevent damage. Short cycling is also a hallmark of an oversized air conditioner, as indoor temperatures drop too quickly. While faster cooling may sound like a positive thing, these short cycles cause wear and tear as well as excess energy consumption.

5. Cooling System Doesn’t Turn On

If your air conditioner or heat pump fails to run at all, the system or any of its equipment may not have power. Dead batteries, tripped breakers, incorrectly set power switches, and even blown fuses in equipment prevent vital components from receiving the necessary power for operation. A faulty thermostat can also prevent your air conditioner from receiving signals that start a cooling cycle, and wiring issues may disrupt signals between equipment and the system’s controls.

6. Noisy Air Conditioner Operation

Homeowners are used to the consistent hum produced by the outdoor condenser unit or heat pump as well as some gentle noise from the blower fan indoors. A clicking sound from the thermostat as the cooling cycle starts or stops is normal, too.

When new and unusual sounds occur from any of your cooling system components, this is reason to be concerned. Various sounds indicate air conditioner malfunctions, some of which include:

  • Squealing from worn bearings within the fan motors in indoor and outdoor units.
  • Clanking and rattling can result when a component is off balance, loose, or disconnected.
  • Screaming and high-pitched whistling are signs of high pressure in the compressor outdoors, which can be dangerous.
  • Hissing can be produced by refrigerant escaping the system, indicating a refrigerant leak.

7. Leaky Ducts

The average home loses cooling energy through leaky ducts which allow conditioned air to escape before reaching its intended location in the home. With more air moving through the ducts as cooling cycles run more frequently in the summertime, these leaks may worsen as air continues to be forced through gaps, loose joints, and damaged areas. If you close vents in rooms in attempts to reduce cooling costs, this actually causes pressure to build within the ducts which can further worsen existing duct leaks as well as cause new ones.

8. Filters Fill Up Faster 

Air conditioning filters need to be changed on a regular basis, but you may find it’s necessary to replace them sooner than expected in the summertime. Your air conditioner runs more often during these hot months than when milder temperatures are present, meaning air passes through the filter more often.

With more passes through the filter, more contaminants are extracted from the indoor air supply which causes the filter’s surface to fill up at a faster rate. Once the filter media is entirely full of pollutants, replacement is necessary. Failing to change the filter when needed will cause airflow problems and could lead to several other serious issues that affect your cooling system’s performance.

9. Fan Malfunctions

Conventional air conditioners and heat pumps have fans in the indoor and outdoor units. Inside, the blower fan sits within the air handler and circulates air between the cooling system and your living areas. The condenser fan in the outdoor unit cycles to blow air across the condenser coils and other components which keeps them cool so they can transfer heat effectively.

  • Worn motor bearings as well as broken or slipped belts within either fan assembly can occur, typically producing unusual operating noise.
  • A condenser fan that doesn’t run correctly may be impacted by motor issues including bad bearings or belts, or even a faulty motor that should be replaced. A bad capacitor or contractor can prevent the motor from receiving power to run the fan.

10. Refrigerant Leaks and Low Refrigerant

Your cooling system is charged with refrigerant used to absorb and transfer heat. It moves through refrigerant lines that run between the indoor and outdoor cooling system units. This system is tightly sealed to hold refrigerant in. Leaks in the refrigerant lines or components can result due to damage, corrosion, equipment defects, and installation problems. Refrigerant escapes the system, leaving your air conditioner or heat pump without enough to efficiently transfer heat, so the air in your home stays warmer and likely more humid as a result.

11. Evaporator Coils Freeze Up

Within the indoor cooling system equipment are the evaporator coils. Their job is to remove heat from the indoor air, as the refrigerant within absorbs this energy. If there is not enough airflow through this cabinet or system refrigerant levels are not sufficient, the evaporator coils become too cold. Condensation resulting from the dehumidification of air as it cools will freeze, forming a layer of ice or frost on the evaporator coils. If the condensate drain is clogged, there may be excess moisture held within this area of the system, worsening ice formation on the coils.

12. Condensate Drain Line Clogs

As air is cooled by the evaporator coils, humidity in the air condenses to form liquid, providing dehumidification. This liquid is too heavy to remain airborne so it falls out of suspension and into the drip pan positioned below the evaporator coils. The drip pan connects to a dedicated condensate drain line that carries this runoff away from the cooling unit.

Problems within the condensate drain components cause moisture to remain within the air conditioner – your home’s air can stay more humid as a result. Eventually, it spills out which can cause water damage to the system as well as the areas of your home that are nearby. This can occur due to damage to the drip pan and clogs that occur in the drip pan or condensate drain line, which are caused by dust and debris, mold or algae, or damage to the drain line.

13. Dirty Condenser Coils

Within the outdoor cooling system unit, the condenser coils receive heated refrigerant and release that heat into the surrounding outdoor air. Over time, the surface of the coils can become caked with dirt, dust, pollen, and other debris. This buildup limits the area available for the condenser coils to release heat, so your air conditioner or heat pump then consumes more energy in attempts to expel the heat from the refrigerant. With dirty condenser coils, your air conditioner may not properly cool your home and your energy bill may be higher than expected.

14. Electrical Damage

Air conditioning equipment has many electrical parts and connections required to power system components. Damaged wiring, malfunctioning contractors, and faulty capacitors are a few of the issues that can prevent your heat pump or air conditioner from operating as it should. Your air conditioning equipment can be suddenly and severely damaged due to power surges and lightning strikes, while poor maintenance can lead to worsening electrical issues over time.

15. Unexplainable High Energy Bills

Air conditioner malfunctions are commonly to blame for electricity bills that are higher than expected. While unusually high temperatures and hosting guests in the home can cause energy expenses to increase, if those factors do not apply, be suspicious of your air conditioner. Any of the issues discussed above as well as other system malfunctions can cause your air conditioner or heat pump to draw more energy than normal as it attempts to cool your home.

Cincinnati Cooling Repair from Thomas & Galbraith

Don’t let summer cooling problems cause sweaty, uncomfortable conditions in your Cincinnati home! If you experience any of the issues mentioned in this guide or other malfunctions that restrict your air conditioner or heat pump’s ability to keep your home cool, it’s time for repairs. Call Thomas & Galbraith for fast and reliable air conditioner or heat pump repairs. Our team is available around the clock should you experience a cooling emergency that needs attention ASAP.  

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