Though you might associate a broken air conditioner with hot, sticky air, the reality is that broken ACs aren’t always so obvious. In some cases, your air conditioner can seem like it’s running, yet you’ll still encounter issues. Being able to identify whether or not your air conditioner is working can help you decide whether or not it’s time for repairs. Here are some simple checks you or your HVAC maintenance provider can perform to see whether your air conditioner is working properly.

1. Check the Air Vents

One of the first and most straightforward ways of seeing whether or not your HVAC unit is operating correctly is to check and see what’s happening at the air vents. The supply vents that blow cool air into the rooms of your home are a very helpful tool for seeing whether or not your air conditioner is running properly.

While your AC is turned on, hold your hand up to the vents. If you cannot feel any air coming out of the vents, your blower might be broken or your ductwork might be disconnected. Another potential sign of a broken AC will be air that is warm or lukewarm instead of feeling crisp and cold. As you check your vents, look for dirt and debris around them, too. Buildup on your vents can indicate you have ductwork leaks letting dusty air into your system.

2. Test the Temperature From Supply and Return Registers

This method of testing an air conditioner is often the preferred method of HVAC professionals. It involves measuring the air at both the return vent that sucks air up into your AC system and the air at the supply vents that blow treated air into your home. After measuring both temperatures, they should be compared to see how much colder air is when it leaves a unit. If your air conditioner is working correctly, air leaving your supply register should be at least 15 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the air entering your system.

This test is useful because it provides a clear and accurate look at how well your AC is functioning. Tests like holding a hand in front of a vent can identify a completely nonoperational system. However, they can’t identify a system that’s working just a little less efficiently than it should. By testing temperature differences, your HVAC technician can see whether or not there are minor issues that are affecting how your system runs.

3. See What Happens When You Adjust the Thermostat

Your air conditioner and your thermostat are supposed to work together, so it’s important to test the thermostat when you are checking your AC. Try turning the thermostat to a warmer setting than the current temperature and see if the AC shuts off. Next, adjust the thermostat setting down to a cooler setting and check to see whether the air conditioner clicks on.

If your air conditioner is working correctly, it should be turning on and off within a few seconds of your thermostat adjustments. An air conditioner that doesn’t follow changes in the thermostat may have an electrical issue or a problem with its start capacitor.

4. Look at the Outdoor Unit

Your air conditioner’s outdoor unit can tell you a lot about the system’s health. This large, boxy component is called the condenser, and it has the important job of releasing heat outside your house. You can test to see whether it’s doing this or not by holding your hand near the unit while it’s running. You should feel a blast of hot air coming from the condenser if your unit is doing an effective job of cooling your home.

The condenser unit also provides helpful details because it’s an easy part of your unit to inspect. You should be able to look through the grates and see a fan running, which will let you know your motor is operating correctly. You should also hear a loud humming sound from the compressor that will let you know it’s running.

5. Examine Your Evaporator Coils

Your evaporator coils can be trickier to examine since they’re often inside your model. However, checking them out is an essential part of any air conditioner inspection. These coils are inside the indoor unit called your air handler, and they’re responsible for chilling air. When your AC is working well, your coils should have a clean surface that’s free of debris.

If your air conditioner’s filter isn’t working properly, you might notice dust collecting on your coils. Dirty coils can also be a sign the fan isn’t blowing air through your system quickly enough. Another issue to look out for is ice on your evaporator coils. If your coils are icing over, you’ll need to get your system checked by a professional.

6. Consider Any Strange Sounds or Smells

When you’re trying to see whether your AC is working properly, it’s helpful to pay close attention to the sounds and smells in your home. Even if you aren’t an expert who can identify issues like a broken condenser unit, you’re still an expert in what’s normal for your home. If you notice any smells or sounds that are out of the ordinary, it can be a sign something is wrong with your AC unit.

If you are hearing unusual banging or thumping, it can be a sign that a fitting is loose somewhere in your air conditioner. An AC unit that is working properly should have a quiet, humming sound that doesn’t disrupt conversations or wake you up in the middle of the night. Meanwhile, any unpleasant smells mean your air conditioner has an issue like an overheated motor or mildewy air ducts. An air conditioner in good working order will have a neutral smell.

7. Look for Water From the Drain Pipe

Your air conditioner isn’t just for cooling your home. It also helps to remove humidity from your air. This humidity is collected in a drain and released outside the home. If you can find this drain pipe, you can check it to make sure your AC is properly dehumidifying the house.

Ideally, the drain pipe should have some evidence of water flowing through it recently. In humid weather, it will have a persistent drip. At other times of the day, it might simply have a damp patch below the outlet. If your drain pipe and the area around it are bone dry, you might have a clog that is causing a leak to develop in your unit. However, your unit might not be running at all. Though a dry drain pipe isn’t a guarantee something’s wrong, it’s a sign you should look closer.

Your Trusted HVAC Professionals

If you suspect that your AC might not be working correctly, get in touch with Main Street Heating & Cooling. Our HVAC technicians are happy to examine your system and test it thoroughly. We can identify any problems and repair your unit too. For years, our family-owned company has been providing Sandy, UT residents with heating and cooling repairs, installations, and maintenance. Call Main Street Heating & Cooling today to schedule your next service visit.

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