5 Things That Can Go Wrong With Your AC System

A blissfully cool, air-conditioned home is one of life's essential comforts, especially in the humid, sticky days of summer. So finding out your AC unit isn't working properly can leave you hot under the collar -- literally! What to do?

"There is no substitute for getting a good technician to make a visual inspection of your ducts, joints, seams and other parts of your unit," says Dave Borowski, director of technical training at Direct Energy. Here are five common reasons your AC unit might be wasting energy, working ineffectively, or not working at all:

  1. Leaky ductwork. According to the Department of Energy, 20 to 30 percent of the air that moves through the duct system of the average home is lost due to leaks, holes, and poorly connected ducts. This leads to two problems: it wastes valuable cooled air and brings unwanted contaminants into your home, including mold, odors and allergens.
  2. Dirty coils. "The AC electro-mechanically and chemically absorbs heat from your home and ejects that heat outside," says Borowski. "To absorb heat, coils have to be cold and slime-free." Over time, acteria and airborne contaminants can combine to create a film that traps heat in AC coils, making them less effective.
  3. Broken condenser fan. "A coil is like the radiator in your car," explains Borowski. "If the fan isn't pushing enough air across it, it'll overheat." The coils suck heat out of the air, and the condenser fan blows it out of your home. If the fan isn't working efficiently, your energy bills will go up as your AC performance goes down.
  4. TXV issues. The thermal expansion valve, or TXV, is a modulating unit in your air conditioner that regulates the amount of refrigerant depending on how much cooling is needed. "If it's not moving properly, it can either flood the system or restrict the flow -- either way, it's not good," notes Borowski.
  5. Age of the unit. "The useful life expectancy of an AC unit is usually between seven and 10 years -- depending on where you are in the U.S, and the number of heating and cooling hours you use," says Borowski.

Higher energy bills and lower performance are sure signs your AC unit needs fixing, but these other symptoms are also cause to call for service:

The good news? "It is quite easy for a trained, competent technician with the right diagnostic tools to conduct a battery of tests and quickly ascertain if corrective action is needed," says Borowski. Regular maintenance is also key: it will not only prolong the life of your unit, but help you keep your cool.

Keep your home's air conditioning system working safely and efficiently with a cooling protection plan. Browse our cooling plans, or call us at 1-888-733-1683 for more information.

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