Air conditioning is a way of life in the southern parts of the U.S. for at least half the year. The price we pay for our mild winters is that we basically skip spring and head straight into summer. That’s why it is so troubling to come home and be hit with a blast of lukewarm air, especially when upon closer inspection, you discover your AC unit fan is not spinning.
Your air conditioner’s fan is usually located in your outside unit. The fan pulls in hot air and delivers it over your condenser coil, where the air cools to your desired temperature and can then be pumped into your home. While your fan can stop spinning for a number of reasons, in most cases, the resolution is not a simple DIY fix. Because of the complexity of air conditioning systems, the dangers of working with electricity and the simple fact that the members of your household will be miserable during hot weather without cool air for long, your best bet is to call in an experienced air conditioning technician. A trained technician can troubleshoot the problem you are having and suggest the best course of action.
In this blog post, we’ll go into more detail about all the reasons your air conditioner might be having trouble, how you can best maintain your unit and what you can do to prevent AC problems.
Simple AC Checks You Can Perform
Many homeowners think that they can get the fan spinning again by “loosening up” the unit. Unfortunately, this tactic is almost never effective and may end in disaster.
That said, there are a few very simple things you can check before calling in a pro. First, check your breakers to make sure nothing has tripped on the air conditioner’s circuit. You can also try resetting the relevant circuit to see if this brings your struggling unit back to life. You can also check your thermostat to confirm it’s actually set to cool. Check your air filter to make sure it’s been replaced recently, and that a dirty filter isn’t the culprit for your issues. While these are extremely simple fixes, they are good first steps for any air conditioning problem that comes up.
Unfortunately, if you’ve gone through these steps and you’re still getting warm air, it’s likely that there’s a problem with the air conditioner itself. If you decide to work on your unit yourself, there are many different ways you can end up inadvertently damaging your system, or even hurting yourself. Taking the time to learn the ins and outs of HVAC systems can help you diagnose the problem and figure out what to do next.
What If The AC Fan And Compressor Are Not Running?
First, let’s cover this scenario. If you can’t hear the AC compressor running, and the fan motor isn’t turning, your problem is likely outside of these parts.
Why do we say this? Because it’s very rare for both the fan and the compressor to fail at once. Usually, this happens when there is a power failure to the unit or a faulty contactor.
Why The AC Inside Fan Is Not Working
If your AC unit’s inside fan isn’t spinning, there are a handful of common internal problems that could be responsible for your stagnant indoor air. Below we cover some of the common culprits, and what can be done to fix them.
Remember—unless you’re looking at a simple fix, your best bet is to call a professional. Many homeowners don’t understand how HVAC systems work, and getting in over your head can be dangerous, or result in costly mistakes that ultimately drive up the total price of the repair.
The AC Fan Motor Is Not Working
One of the simplest explanations for an AC fan not spinning is a dead fan motor. Most fan motors work overtime, especially during the summer months. This heavy use results in a significant amount of wear and tear, and eventually, the motor will give out.
This problem is also more likely in a unit that hasn’t been properly maintained, as lack of maintenance often puts extra strain on the fan motor.
In most cases, it’s easiest to simply replace the fan motor rather than attempting to fix it. This is an easy repair, and as long as the part is available, your HVAC pro can perform this replacement quickly.
You Have A Faulty Contactor
If you find that both the fan and the compressor aren’t running, you probably have a worn or damaged contacctor. The contactor controls the flow of power to the condenser and fan motor, so if it’s broken, it’s likely that both the fan and the compressor won’t run.
While it’s possible to test the voltage on the contactor, or to shut the power off and remove the contactor and take it to a local parts store for testing, we recommend calling in a pro to do this for you. AC systems require high voltage to run, so doing a live voltage test is a risky venture at best, particularly if you’ve never done something like this before. You can also get hurt attempting to remove the contactor—yet another reason to rely on the experts.
The Motor Is Burned Out
If your AC unit hasn’t been properly maintained, debris left by wildlife and clogged filters can increase the resistance on the fan motor, causing it to work harder. In this situation, it’s much more likely for the motor to overheat and burn out. If this happens to you, the motor should be replaced by an HVAC professional.
When you find a company you trust to perform these repairs, you can set up a routine maintenance contract and ask about any maintenance you can perform, including changing your filters regularly.
You Have A Clogged Filter
If your air filter is blocked, your fan can stop turning. Some never learned where their home’s air filters are, let alone how to change the central air conditioner filters. In some cases, this is your only problem, and changing the filter will get your AC back up and running.
Why You Need To Know About Bad Capacitor Symptoms
A bad capacitor can cause your AC fan not to run well, among being responsible for other problems. The capacitor’s job is to send power to the motor that powers your AC system, giving it the initial boost of power it needs to turn on, and also providing the continuous power your AC needs to keep running.
Therefore, a bad capacitor can cause many problems with your AC unit.
The most common symptoms of a bad capacitor include the following:
- Your AC system isn’t blowing cold air, even when the thermostat is set to cool.
- Your lights dim when the AC goes on.
- Your AC system takes a while to start when you turn it on.
- You notice a humming sound coming from your AC unit.
- Your AC unit shuts off on its own.
- The unit won’t turn on.
- AC units use 6% of all electricity in the U.S., so yours is likely a major chunk of your power bill. If you notice that your power bill has gone up, a bad capacitor may be to blame.
We highly recommend calling in a professional at this point, but there is a test you can try if you turn on the system and the fan doesn’t move:
- Expose the fan by taking the top off of your condenser.
- Use a stick to turn the fan in the direction of the downward-slant of the blades.
- If the AC starts working after you assist the fan in turning, that means you may have a capacitor issue.
Regardless of the route you take, let’s say your capacitor is shot. While this sounds like bad news, it’s actually not. Capacitors are readily available and they’re less expensive than many other components of your AC. Therefore, replacing the capacitor will be a quick and relatively inexpensive fix.
What If The Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping?
Various parts of your air conditioner can overheat if they’re not in good working order, which will trip your circuit breaker and cut the power to the AC unit, causing it to shut down. Sometimes this just happens, especially during the hottest days of the year.
However, if the circuit breaker is tripped more than once, this may be a warning sign of larger problems with your AC unit. In this case, it’s almost always advisable to call your HVAC professional for service all.
A skilled technician can determine what’s going on before your AC fails altogether, and can set up regularly scheduled maintenance to keep your system working at peak efficiency.
The Importance Of Maintenance
As you can see from our laundry list of diagnostics, poor maintenance is a common culprit in many AC problems. Setting up a routine maintenance contract with a trusted HVAC professional can keep your air conditioner in working order, preventing costly repairs down the road. A professional can also advise you of the maintenance tasks you’ll need to perform yourself, such as changing filters. Proper maintenance will also make your air conditioner more efficient, cutting down on your power bill and helping extend the service life.
ABC Can Resolve Your Heating And Cooling Issues
Many homeowners are reluctant to call in an HVAC professional due to cost. However, if you bite off more than you can chew attempting to fix your system yourself, you could end up increasing your repair costs—or worse. Thankfully, you can rely on ABC Home & Commercial Services for all your repairs and maintenance. Our skilled team of trained technicians understands exactly how your air conditioner works and can get much-needed cool air blowing through your house in no time. In addition to resolving any existing AC problems, we can come up with a maintenance schedule that best fits your schedule and budget. With ABC’s help, you can get your home back to feeling cool and comfortable in no time!