During the lazy, hazy, HOT days of summer, the last thing you want is to discover your home air conditioner is not working. Before you pick up the phone to call a professional, you may be able to save yourself some money by diagnosing HVAC problems with your AC unit yourself.

There are some common HVAC problems that can result in an air-conditioning malfunction. Try these HVAC troubleshooting tips to potentially give you relief quickly — and inexpensively. Gather your tools — HVAC filters, a long-handled brush, batteries, and a circuit tester — and see if you can solve some of the common HVAC problems.

Common HVAC Problems and Solutions - Women of HVAC

Did you turn it on? There’s a common joke in the IT world about what they first ask people with computer problems: Did you turn it on? HVAC not working? Maybe it isn’t turned on. Go outside to the main unit and look for the disconnect (usually in a small gray metal box mounted on the exterior house wall near the unit). Make sure it’s on. Check to see that the blower motor is running when the thermostat is activated. If it isn’t, see if there are cracks or breaks in the belt. Perhaps the pilot light igniter isn’t working.

Did a circuit breaker trip?

If the power is on but is not working, make sure the circuit breaker didn’t trip. Locate the breaker and turn it off. Wait 10 seconds and turn it back on. If you have fuses instead, switch the main power off and replace any fuses that seem to be burned, brown or broken.

Is the thermostat functioning properly?

Check your settings because if they’re not set properly, they may cause HVAC problems and malfunctions. If your thermostat is battery operated, you may just need to replace the batteries. If that doesn’t take care of it, make sure that it is set to “cool” and three to five degrees below room temperature. Check the register to see if cold air is coming in. You may need to reset the AC unit at the circuit breaker. Was everything working and then it stopped? There could be water below the unit, and if the coils are dirty the water could freeze. If that seems to be the problem, turn the AC off at the thermostat and the circuit breaker. Clean the coils, wait three hours and restart.

Troubleshooting HVAC

Are you getting proper airflow?

First, make sure the thermostat’s fan is set to “continuous” and the registers (supply and return ducts) are open and clear. Locate the cold air return and remove the filter. It may just be you have a dirty air filter. If it isn’t clean, your AC will not work efficiently. If yours is a disposable one, replace it. If it’s a permanent filter, read the manual to see how to clean. Just make sure you put it back in with the arrow pointing toward the ductwork inside.

Do you have access to YouTube?

DIY videos can serve as a great HVAC troubleshooting guide. If you are unsure about what various parts look like or where they’re located, watching a video may help boost your confidence and even help you solve common HVAC problems.

Diagnosing HVAC problems yourself and performing simple fixes can save you money. However, HVAC systems don’t last forever, and wear and tear will happen. You might have uneven cooling, which could be a sealing issue, or coils might be corroded or breaking. In cases like that, you’ll want to contact an experienced HVAC technician.

Have you thought about getting into the industry? Maybe troubleshooting is giving you the impetus — and interest — to become an HVAC technician. Partially because so many baby boomers are approaching retirement age, the industry expects a severe shortage of skilled trades workers. Employers will need to look outside the usual job pool to fill positions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the need for qualified technicians is expected to grow 15 percent between 2016 and 2026 — much faster than average. The growth rate, coupled with a retiring workforce, means the field will need women to survive.

Women of HVAC brings awareness to the labor shortage, showcases women in the field and gives them the necessary tools to begin a successful career in the trades. The organization can help women find HVAC programs to train them for this lucrative, in-demand field and provide resources, opportunities and support for those already in the field.

Contact WomenofHVAC.Org today for more information.

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