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Why Isn’t My Air Conditioner Working?

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You want your exposed ductwork to be more than just decorative. Here’s a guide on what to do if your air conditioner isn’t working. Image: Cavan Images/Getty Images

Whether you live in an area infamous for its scorching summers or just don’t like tossing and turning at night when your bedroom is too warm, you’re going to want your A/C at the ready. But what happens when you go to turn it on and then — nothing. What do you do? This guide is for those of us who’ve found ourselves asking, “Why isn’t my air conditioner working?”

Let’s start with the obvious: not all A/C issues are the same. Your air conditioning unit might not turn on, or it might power up just fine but blow air that doesn’t cool you down. Your issue might not even be with your air at all, but with your HVAC system’s drainage. We’ve gathered up some FAQs for when your air conditioner isn’t working. Find the one that best applies to you and get your situation sorted before it gets too hot.


Why isn’t my air conditioner turning on?

If you notice that there’s no air movement from your HVAC system, start by checking your thermostat. It seems silly, but if you haven’t adjusted it since the weather warmed, it might just be set too high to trigger your system and engage your air conditioner.

Then, try resetting the circuit breaker. It might have been open, preventing the A/C unit from running, and a simple switch flip will get you back in action.

If that doesn’t work, check the fuse. If it’s blown, you’ve found the issue.

Still not solved? Check your return grills, the covers over your vents, and your air filters. (Psst! You should be swapping out your air filters seasonally, anyway.) These items can get clogged, preventing air from flowing where you need it.

If none of these options fix the problem, you can always contact an HVAC professional to solve the issue.

Why is my A/C running all the time? (or) Why is my energy bill so high?

Listen, we all like to keep our homes and apartments at a hyper-comfortable temperature in the summer. But there’s a price to pay for that kind of living — literally. If your air conditioner seems like it’s constantly running and you’re left with a high energy bill, adjust your thermostat.

The U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting your thermostat to 78 degrees F when you’re home in the summer. And if you want to slash even more off your bill, they recommend turning it up a bit when you leave the house. There’s no sense paying to cool a space no one’s using, right? Close your window coverings to keep your house from heating too much while you’re gone.

If you want your A/C to work less so you can keep more money in your pocket, check your home’s insulation. Keeping the cool air your air conditioning system creates inside is key to keeping your utility bills as low as possible.

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Make sure your HVAC unit sits unobstructed. Image: John Royal/Shutterstock

Why isn’t my air conditioner blowing cold air?

A breeze might feel nice, but the whole point of having an A/C unit is to get chilly air when you want it. If your air conditioner isn’t blowing cold air, your first step should be to look at your thermostat settings. Hey, it never hurts to double-check!

If you set your system to cool your home but it isn’t doing the trick, check the HVAC unit outside. Clear away any grass, sticks and other outdoor debris. They can clog the cooling coil, preventing you from getting cold air.

Still too warm? Check your indoor air handler coil. (Need help? Here’s a brief guide to this critical part of your HVAC.) Dust it and remove any debris. That might solve your issue.

And, again, don’t forget to check your filters. Not only does cleaning and replacing them on a regular schedule ensure your system can work efficiently, keeping your home comfortable, it also makes your system more efficient. And less energy usage means a lower utility bill.

Why is my drain pan so full?

Most people don’t think about their HVAC system’s drain pan. In fact, did you know yours had one? If not, you’ve probably never faced an overflow situation. But that can happen when the drainage that’s supposed to whisk away the condensation your A/C creates isn’t working properly.

If your drain pan is overflowing, its electric pump could be malfunctioning. This pump is supposed to carry the condensation from your system to a drainage pipe. Make sure the pump is plugged in. Then, check for any kinks in the drainage line.

Contact an HVAC professional

Tried all of these and still stumped? Don’t worry. Now is the time to get a pro out to get your air conditioner fixed so you can enjoy the summer. Schedule an appointment with an HVAC professional to get your air conditioner working again. No sweat!

Should You Repair or Replace Your Home’s HVAC Unit?
Keeping Cool: How to Choose the Right A/C Unit
HVAC Basics: What’s a Good SEER Rating? 
Building Your Energy-Efficient Dream Home
Clever Ways to Hide an Ugly HVAC Unit


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