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Air conditioner not cooling? Here’s what you can do about it:

Last updated: May 14, 2019, 3:45 p.m.

Save some money: try these DIY steps before scheduling a service call.

Generally speaking, air conditioners fail in one of two ways: either they stop blowing air completely or they blow air, but it’s not cold. Neither are fun to experience in the dead of summer.

The good news is that a decent percent of the time, A/C issues can be fixed on your own for free (or at most a couple bucks). The troubleshooting steps below are meant to help you do just that.

No air is coming out of your vents

1. Check your thermostat batteries. If your thermostat screen is blank or showing a battery symbol, there's a good chance bad batteries are your issue. Changing them out is simple: just take the thermostat unit off the wall and toss a couple fresh batteries in it. Note: Even if your thermostat screen is lit, you can still have bad batteries. They may have just enough power to turn the screen on, but not enough to flip the relays that actually do the work of telling your system to come on.

2. Check that your A/C circuit breaker isn’t tripped or off. More often than you'd think, A/C issues can be traced back to the breaker box. To check, go to your breaker box and look for a switch labeled A/C. If the switch is on the opposite side of all the other switches, flip it. Voilà — your issue should be fixed. If the switch is in the middle position, your circuit breaker tripped because of an electrical issue. Flipping it may fix the issue, but we always recommend getting someone out there to figure out what tripped it. If it trips again, you absolutely need to have a technician out because something is seriously wrong.

3. Check your filters. Sometimes filters get so dirty that they shut the overall heating and cooling system down. To rule that out, replace your old filter with a clean one (you can get them from Walmart for two to three bucks: make sure you get the right size!). If you've never changed yours before, first you need to locate it. Most are behind the big metal vent you see in your ceiling (usually a hallway). Here’s a typical one:

return air vent

Once you find your return air vent, remove the grate and take out the filter. There should be some numbers on the side that tell you what size you need to buy. After buying a new one (Walmart & Amazon have them), place it in the grate with the arrow on the side facing up. Now just flip your A/C circuit breaker off and then back on (see above) and cross your fingers!

Air is coming out of your vents, but it’s not cold

1. Check that your thermostat is set to “Auto” and not “On”. If your A/C blows cool air sometimes and warm air other times, you may have your thermostat set to “On”. That means your fan runs 24/7 — including the times your air isn’t being cooled. Just flip the switch to “Auto” and your warm air issues should be gone.

2. Clean your outdoor unit. Condensers (what your outdoor unit is technically called) need airflow to keep your home cool. If grass or debris has built up on or around the unit, it may not be getting enough. A good place to start would be weed eating nearby tall grass and making sure your unit has plenty of space around it. You may also take a garden hose and spray down the outside of the condenser. Depending on how dirty your condenser was, this may fix your cooling issues.

If you're tried the above and still no luck

If all of the above fail, you can feel pretty confident you have a real issue. That doesn't necessarily mean the repair is going to be expensive, just that you'll need an HVAC technician to work on it.

For A/C repairs in Northwest Arkansas, call Franklin at (479) 282-0003.

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