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My AC Is Not Working!

my ac is not working
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Well this is just great… You have just walked in the front door of your home at 4:27 pm on a random Tuesday. You’re tired from a long day at work, and it takes you about 2.6 seconds to realize that your air conditioner is not working. One quick glance at the thermostat and it is a sweltering 85 degrees in your house, now what? Before you reach for the telephone and call the pros let’s check a couple of things to see if you can maybe do a temporary fix to start getting the house cool again.

We are going to start at the thermostat. Instead of it reading 85 degrees was the screen blank? If so you likely need to change the batteries. Gently open the battery compartment or pull the face of the thermostat off if the screen is blank. Try the new batteries and you might be back up and running right away. Batteries in thermostats are just like the ones in your smoke detector and should be changed once a year. We have run a lot of service calls over the years where two AA batteries fixed the problem. Okay, it’s not the batteries. What next?

Let’s head to wherever the circuit breaker panels are in your home. Most single family detached homes will have the panel or panels located in the garage. All you condo owners have a picture hanging over yours. Don’t laugh, you know I’m right! Open the panel, find the breakers marked for the AC equipment and make sure nothing has tripped. Sometimes a power surge or some other anomaly can cause a circuit breaker to trip and with no power going to the equipment obviously you have no air conditioning. If you reset the breaker, the unit starts briefly and the breaker trips again right away, DO NOT repeat the process. You have a larger issue going on and you need to grab the phone and get help on the way.

Next up let’s look at the water safety device on your drain line. It is typically on the front or side of the indoor unit and looks as pictured below:

air conditioner safety switch

If you lift the cap off the safety device and see that it is full of water, that little switch has done its job and turned the air handler off so you didn’t get a condensate drain line flood. If you hold the switch in the air for a minute or so and the unit re-engages the switch was the reason the unit wasn’t running. It still means that your drain line has backed up and is not draining properly.

For my handy individuals out there grab a shop vacuum, head outside and suck the drain line out. You are probably going to get a bunch of white slime in the vacuum and a bunch of water. After you get the water flowing again, dump a bottle or two of hot water down the drain line to fill the trap and hopefully things are flowing again. Put the safety switch back in place just in case the line isn’t really cleared.

If you don’t want to mess with the drain line just let the pros know that you found the safety switch full of water when you call. I also recommend even if you got the drain line flowing again to have the guys give it a good professional chemical cleaning to help it not back up again.

By the way, do not use bleach in drain lines as bleach over time will weaken the PVC pipe and make it brittle. The DIY tip for drain lines is white vinegar. If you pour a couple cups of white vinegar down the drain line every time you change the filter you’ll help prevent stoppages.

That really wraps up the things that your average home owner can do in terms of checking the AC unit out before you call the pros. When you check the breakers, thermostat and drain line you just did the first three things that happen on any service call when a unit isn’t working. At this point it is best to call the cavalry and let the professionals take it from here.

Well my friends the time has come for us to go our separate ways. I look forward to seeing you next time and leave you with this thought. I read about a few tribes of people around the world that have never been contacted by the outside world and started thinking, what if that is Earth to the rest of the galaxies out there? They know we are here but aren’t saying anything till we figure it out.

House Whisperer out!!


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