12 Checks to Make When Your AC Isn't Cooling

Homeowner maintaining AC Unit

In Halifax, Virginia, as the days stretch out and the temperature climbs, having an air conditioner that's up to scratch is more than just a luxury—it’s your lifeline during the sweltering summer months. If your AC isn't keeping the heat at bay, it’s essential to tackle these issues quickly to avoid a real struggle when you need cool relief the most.

At Solutions Heating& Cooling, we get how frustrating and uncomfortable it can be when your AC falters as the mercury rises. That’s why we’ve put together a straightforward guide with the top 12 checks to make sure your unit is in prime condition.

These steps range from easy adjustments to more involved fixes, all aimed at helping you keep your home cool and comfy throughout the summer. And if you hit a snag, don’t worry—our team is just a phone call away, ready to offer expert solutions to make your summer stress-free.

Here's what you need to check to ensure your AC is ready to handle the summer heat:

1. Verify Thermostat Settings

Let's tackle the basics first and figure out why your AC might be on strike. Start with the thermostat—it's often the culprit. Make sure it's switched to 'cool.' To strike the right balance between energy efficiency and comfort, aim to set your home's temperature to the highest limit of comfort. Given our southern climate, allowing the AC to manage humidity is crucial. Therefore, it's common for people to adjust their thermostats to a range of 72-75 degrees.

Now, if your AC's just sitting there not doing its job, here's what to do:

  • Power Check: First things first, make sure your thermostat isn’t just playing dead. If it runs on batteries, popping some fresh ones if the old ones are looking weary.
  • Wiring Woes: Next up, take a peek at the wires. Any loose or funky-looking connections? Before proceeding, ensure the power is off and take necessary safety precautions to avoid electrical accidents. Then, tighten them up and give any corroded spots a good clean to make sure everything’s making contact.
  • Sensor Sweep: Dust bunnies aren't just under the bed—the love to snuggle up on your thermostat’s sensors too, messing up the temp readings. Grab a soft brush and gently evict them.
  • System Reset: If all else fails, a quick reset might just do the trick. Turn off the power at your circuit breaker, count to ten, then flip it back on.

2. Inspect and Replace Air Filters

Keeping your air filters clean is super important for your HVAC system’s health. As filters get clogged, your HVAC system has to work way harder, kind of like how your body would if your arteries were blocked. This not only bumps up your energy bills but could also lead to a total system breakdown.

Here's your easy guide to keeping those filters in check:

  • Regular Check-ins: It's smart to peek at your air filter every month, especially right before the summer heat kicks in or during the chilly winter. In most cases, you should swap out your filter every three months, but if you've got furry pets, smokers, or any big home projects stirring up extra dust, you might need to do it even sooner.  Consider upgrading to our smart AC system, which measures filter restriction rather than relying on a calendar schedule. This innovative tech could potentially extend the lifespan of your filters, saving you on replacement costs in the long run. You can book an appointment with our professionals right now to learn more!
  • How to Check: First, check your filter while the system isn't running. That way, if there is dust, dirt or dander in the filter, that won't get stirred up and pulled into your system when you pull the filter out. Pull out the filter and hold it up. If it looks grey and grimy, or if a quick swipe of your finger comes away dirty, it’s time for a new one.  And remember, just because your filter may not LOOK dirty, doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be changed.
  • Installing a New Filter: Slide in the new filter with the airflow arrow pointing toward your system’s blower. Tip: Jot down the date on the edge of the filter so you won’t forget the next check-uptime.
  • Picking the Right Filter: There are loads of filters out there. Pleated ones are great because they catch more dirt thanks to their extra surface area. Check the MERV rating—higher numbers mean better filtration, but a rating of 6 or above is usually plenty for homes. Filters with a MERV 13 rating are very effective at filtering, but they do restrict a lot of air, (even when clean) which can be hard on your HVAC system (especially if the duct system is undersized).

Inspecting, cleaning, and replacing AC air filters is a part of our comprehensive A/C Maintenance Services. Contact us today at Solutions Heating and Cooling.

3. Clean the Condenser Unit

Technician cleaning condenser with a rag

Your AC’s condenser unit like a big fan that needs to breathe. If it’s all choked up with leaves and dirt, it’s going to struggle. So, giving it a good clean can really boost your AC’s health and helps you save money on those energy bills.

Not sure how to give your condenser unit a spa day? First, turn off the power: make sure to switch off the power to the condenser unit at your breaker box. Now you have to grab any sticks, leaves, or whatever else is cluttering up around the unit.

Remember, the fins are super delicate, so gently brush off the dirt with a soft-bristled brush. Always brush in the direction the fins run to avoid bending them. Now you can rinse away with a gentle stream from your garden hose - rinse the fins from the inside out. No pressure washers are recommended for this task. In fact, pressure washing can bend the fins over, and damage the unit beyond repair

If you notice some fins looking a bit wonky, straighten them out with a fin comb, or if it looks tricky, maybe call in a pro.  If you’re in Halifax, South Boston, Danville, or Clarksville, feel free to call us at (434) 404-4461 fora thorough AC inspection and repair services.

4.  Space Check

Let’s take a quick look around your AC unit. It needs about two feet of free space all around it to breathe and work properly. It’s like giving it a little personal bubble. This isn’t just about efficiency—it’s about avoiding simple issues that could lead to a call for help.  Some well-intended individuals put a tree, a bush, or some other plant or fence around the unit. But that only restricts air, and shortens the life of the unit, while driving up the operating cost of it.

If you’re trying to figure out how to rearrange your space or if something looks a bit off, the friendly folks at Solutions Heating & Cooling are just a phone call away. They’re experts at making sure everything is set up just right.

5. Regular Clean-Ups

A person cleaning their AC unit with a gentle pressure washer

Keeping your AC unit clean isn't just about dusting off the cobwebs—it can seriously boost your comfort and cut down on those surprise breakdowns. Think of it as a little health check-up for your system.

Regular TLC means your AC runs smoother and keeps the summer heat at bay. If you’re looking for a thorough check or just some expert maintenance tips, we have your back. We’re the pros at keeping things cool, so why not give us a shout before the hot weather hits?

6. Test the Thermostat Sensors

The function of thermostat sensors is to find out how warm your house is and when to kick into gear. To see if they're on point, just lower your thermostat a few degrees below the room’s current temp. If your AC starts up, those sensors are sharp! If not, they might need a quick cleanup or a check on their connections. It’s an easy fix that keeps everything running smoothly.

Related: HVAC System Tips For Even Home Temperatures

7. Check the Airflow

Good airflow is the secret to any efficient AC system. First, make sure all your vents are open and nothing's blocking them. Sometimes, people will close off vents to rooms that are getting too much air or to rooms that don't get much use, but that too is hard on your HVAC system. Closingvents is similar to making your system asthmatic; it needs to be able to breathe. Then, take a look at your filters—are they clean? If everything looks clear but the air still isn't moving right, it could mean there’s a bigger issue hiding in your ducts or the AC itself. That might be a good time to call-in some expert eyes.

8. Examine the Ductwork for Leaks

Duct leaks can really make your system sweat to keep up. Fire up the AC and feel along the duct work for any air sneaking out where it shouldn’t be. Spot any gaps? A bit of tape can patch things up temporarily, but for a real fix, you might want to get those ducts sealed up tight by an HVAC expert. Keeping them intact helps your AC do its job without overworking. At Solutions Heating & Cooling, our Aeroseal process is thorough, efficient, and designed with your comfort in mind. Read our blog article on Aeroseal to understand the significance of Air Duct sealing. Also, call us now at (434) 404-4461 to learn how much you can save with Aeroseal!

9. Check the Coolant Levels

HVAC Technician checking the coolant levels with an electronic gauge

Think of your AC’s coolant like the lifeblood of the system—it keeps everything cool and prevents overheating. If your house isn’t cooling down like it used to, you might be low on coolant. This isn’t a DIY fix, so it’s wise to call in the experts to top it off and check for leaks, ensuring your system runs efficiently without any hiccups.

10. Assess Electrical Connections

HVAC Technician assessing electrical component of a mini-split unit

Your air conditioner’s electrical connections are its heartbeat. If they're off, your system might act up or even shut down. Notice any flickering lights or strange noises? These are clues that something might not be right. Electricity is no joke, so it’s best to have a pro take a look to keep things safe and prevent bigger issues down the road.

11. Inspect the Evaporator Coil

The evaporator coil is crucial—it’s where the magic happens to cool your air. If it’s dirty or starts icing over, your AC won’t do its job well. You’ll notice it by weaker airflow or air that isn’t quite cold. This part of your AC unit is delicate, so instead of risking damage, consider this a job for professional cleaners who can handle it with care.

12. Review System Controls and Settings 

Small adjustments to your AC’s controls and settings can make a big difference in comfort and energy costs. Missettings can lead to inefficiency and higher bills. Make sure everything is dialed in just right. Not sure about the correct settings? A quick professional review can optimize your system for peak performance, helping you save money and enjoy better cooling.

Related: Air Conditioner Remote Controls & AC Settings: Your Ultimate Guide

Final Thoughts

Keeping up with routine AC maintenance is more than a chore—it's a crucial step in ensuring your home stays comfortable and your energy bills stay low throughout the scorching summer months. Regular check-ups can prevent unexpected breakdowns and prolong the life of your system. If ensuring your AC is in top shape feels overwhelming, don't worry; help is just a call away. Get in touch with Solutions Heating & Cooling today and ensure your system is perfect for the warmer days ahead. Book Appointment now! With our expert team on your side, you can relax knowing your comfort is secure. Stay cool, stay happy!