HVAC Troubleshooting: 12 Things to Check Before Calling a Pro

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To most homeowners, the inner workings of their HVAC system may seem like a mystery. This is why they immediately resort to calling professional HVAC mechanics for the slightest hitch. However, the truth is, there are many small troubleshoots you can undertake today that can drastically improve the performance of your HVAC system and even solve any lingering issues. Of course, if all else fails, the pros are always there to help, but before that, here are 12 troubleshooting tips you can try out right away.

Air Conditioning Check: Air Filter

If you are facing problems with the heating or cooling of your HVAC system, chances are a dirty filter is the most common culprit. Not only can you easily clean them if they are the more durable kind, like pleated filters, but you can also get them replaced without resorting to calling a technician. Furthermore, if you live in congested urban areas, have pets, or use carpets in your house, it is prudent to keep a small stock of air filters so regular replacements become second nature. However, make sure you consult an HVAC expert to know if your filter requires regular replacement or not.

Air Conditioning Check: Circuit Breakers

When installing new appliances or gadgets, especially in an old property, it is quite possible to accidentally turn off switches or circuit breakers. In this case, you can handle your HVAC woes by simply inspecting if the circuit breaker or power switch is turned off or tripped by any chance. Most suburban houses will have their circuit breakers in the garage. However, if that’s not the case for your property, you may also find them in the basement, storage rooms, or the hallway in some cases. Ultimately, this small check can save you a lot of money when you call an HVAC technician, especially when the solution is so simple.

Air Conditioning Check: Vents

All HVAC systems utilize a complex series of vents to filter out air. With prolonged usage, these vents can collect dust and debris over time. However, not all regions may be compromised. Perhaps, it’s just one small clog which can be easily removed with proper duct cleaning tools. Or, it can be a major dust and contamination build-up requiring professional assistance. In either case, it is important to first inspect and pinpoint the source of the problem before calling in the experts. In the first case, you can tackle the problem yourself, and in the latter, you are better informed to guide and help the technicians to deep clean the vents if required.

Air Conditioning Check: Property Manager

If you are renting an apartment or property, be sure to contact the property manager if you require a technician to visit the premises. Perhaps there are major irregularities in the heating and cooling system, necessitating the services of a professional. However, without the consent of the property manager, the technician may not be able to gain access to your HVAC system anyway. Therefore, immediately run it by the property manager and obtain their go-ahead before you make the call. In fact, chances are the property manager might know a good HVAC technician or two and they can enlist their services right away, making the process a lot smoother for you as a renter. 

Air Conditioning Check: Power Outages

While this might seem like a no-brainer, it can be difficult to check in commercial properties if there is a regular power outage. Similarly, even homeowners who may decide to shut off their power during the day to save up on their energy bills might be indirectly contributing to HVAC-related problems. The issue here is that frequent power outages, whether self-imposed or otherwise, can lead to irregular airflow, making it harder for the HVAC system to effectively heat or cool the place as required. Hence, please make sure to check for power outages and try to resolve it at the earliest.

Air Conditioning Check: Check the Batteries

Sometimes, the problem is not with the HVAC system, but with something very trivial, such as your thermostat. If you haven’t changed the batteries in your thermostat for a long time, it could very likely be the culprit behind a poorly functioning heating and cooling system. Simply check the light on the thermostat. If it is lit, then you are good to go and some other issue might be the cause like a clogged vent or malfunctioning parts. However, if it is not lit, then simply replace the thermostat’s batteries and watch your HVAC system work as well as new. 

Air Conditioning Check: Check the outside unit

If the vents and the inside of your HVAC system seem clear of any dust or debris, chances are the outside unit is the source of the problem. The outside unit of an HVAC system is often overlooked, but it is where the highest concentration of contamination could be. Quickly inspect this unit too when you are checking your filters and air vents. If you find contaminants like leaves clogging up the outside unit, simply use a hose with a spray nozzle to blast them away. Of course, turn off your power first. Lastly, you install a protective barrier around the outside unit, such as a copper mesh to keep the debris at bay without compromising on the air quality. 

Air Conditioning Check: Summer frost

You might wonder what summer frost is. During the warmer months, when the HVAC units are running overtime to keep the place cool, they can become overused, causing the pipes to freeze, thereby reducing the efficiency of the system. This is called summer frost, and the best way to troubleshoot this problem is to let the pipes thaw out. Simply turn off the HVAC for a couple of hours and it should be working fine. However, if it refreezes again and the problem persists after multiple thawing attempts, please contact a certified HVAC technician right away as there might be a deeper issue.

Air Conditioning Check: Thermostat chronicles

Closely related to the point mentioned above, it is important to not overload your HVAC system in the first place. During peak summertime, it can be very tempting to set the thermostat lower and lower, expecting better cooling and management of heat. However, make sure to never lower the thermostat beyond 70 degrees, because if you set it lower than this, instead of further cooling your house or commercial property, the HVAC system can freeze. And as mentioned above, thawing out a frozen system can take hours or even days. Or you might have to end up calling a technician.

Air Conditioning Check: The more you know

What’s better than troubleshooting HVAC-related problems? Avoiding the problems in the first place. One of the best ways to avoid HVAC troubles is by understanding some basics about your system and its relation to the outside temperature. On average, an HVAC system is cooler by about 20 degrees when compared to the actual temperature outside. Thus, if the outside temperature is around 92 degrees, then the HVAC system might be operating at around 72 degrees. This knowledge will help you maintain this temperature differential, helping you avoid problems such as frozen pipes and overworking the system to the point of major repairs.

Air Conditioning Check: Watch out for wires

At the end of the day, your HVAC unit is a complex electrical system involving numerous wires. It is quite probable for the wires to become frayed or clipped over time. This can be a cause for your HVAC troubles. Moreover, exposed wires are also an electrical hazard. Therefore, watch out for these wires, especially around the outside unit. Keep lawnmowers and weed whackers away from the outside unit, as there is a high probability that they might clip some wires, leading to the problems mentioned above. Lastly, if you do end up with exposed or frayed wires, immediately contact your certified local HVAC technician today to report the problem.

Air Conditioning Check: Fun fact

You can think of it as a fun fact or a bonus tip. Not overloading your HVAC system is critical. A great way to do that during peak summers is by closing your curtains or blinds, particularly those on the west side of your house. This is because the afternoon sun is most likely to hit these windows, indirectly raising the temperature of your room and further straining your cooling system. But by simply following this simple tip, you can improve the performance of your cooling unit, ensure smooth and hassle-free operation and also avoid any major repairs in the future. 

Conclusion

In summary, follow these troubleshooting steps one by one depending on the context and situation to avoid any minor problems or hiccups with your HVAC units. However, if the problem still persists, it is best to call the HVAC experts, as dabbling into it yourself can lead to injury, decreased efficiency, and damage to parts down the line.

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