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So your AC is broken. Here’s what to do.

An air conditioner never breaks at a convenient time. It happens most often at the height of summer when cool air is needed the most. The height of summer is also when there are very few new AC units available in stores, and prices are often higher than normal for the few units available. Rather than wasting away in the summer heat, or scrambling to find a new AC for a decent price, there is a cost-saving and eco-friendly alternative.

What to do if your AC breaks

Most AC problems can be fixed, either by yourself or with the help of a professional. It’s only a matter of weighing the cost to fix it vs. the cost to replace the unit. The first step is to see whether you can fix the problem by yourself.

If the AC overheated: Air conditioners as well as most appliances from vacuums to computers have an automatic limit switch. This switch disables the device when it gets too hot, preventing further damage. If your AC shuts down on its own, don’t turn it back on right away. Instead, let it return to room temperature. Then clean the ducts and replace any dirty filters before turning the unit back on.

If the AC unit still doesn’t turn on, have a professional take a look. There may be an internal switch they can operate, or there may be other simple issues the AC technician can diagnose.

If the air conditioner leaks: The coldest part of the air conditioner is the evaporator coil. If it’s not properly ventilated, ice builds up around the evaporator coil and drips as it melts. To keep the AC from leaking, and to keep it working properly in the long term, it will need a thorough cleaning.

Some AC units leak more than others, but an uptick in leaking indicates poor ventilation, which will cost you more later on if not addressed. Regular maintenance will keep your air conditioner in top shape, and enable the technician to notice other issues early on.

If the fan is blowing hot air: Another common AC leak is the refrigerant: a heat-absorbing liquid housed inside the air conditioner. The refrigerant is not meant to leak, but this may happen if the AC unit is damaged. Losing too much refrigerant causes the AC to work like a fan: hot air goes in, hot air comes out.

For most home AC units, it’s more cost-effective to have the leak fixed and the refrigerant refilled than to replace the system. When requesting AC service, be sure to mention the make and model of your AC unit if possible.

Rather than tossing out a broken air conditioner, see if it can be fixed! You may be able to follow this guide to fix it yourself. If not, our team would love to take a look.

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