How Do You Know If Your Home's Air Conditioner Needs Attention?

The world would be a much simpler place if residential HVAC problems were always easy to spot. Unfortunately, air conditioning issues can often be far more troublesome. While you might think that everything is fine as long as your air conditioner turns on, many issues may start in much more subtle ways.

With spring entering its final few weeks, there's a good chance that you've already needed to run your home's air conditioner at least a few times. Although it may be working fine to keep you cool on these relatively mild days, any problems or inefficiencies may stop it from keeping you cool once the heat waves roll in. Check out these three potential warning signs if you think your AC might require service.

1. High Humidity

Your air conditioner reduces humidity in your home as a side effect of its design. The cold evaporator coils remove heat energy from the surrounding air, causing moisture to condense into water droplets. As the blower motor pushes the cold air through your vents, this drier air gets distributed to each room in your house.

However, high humidity in your home may be a sign of trouble. If your air conditioner is running but seems to be pushing sticky, humid air through your vents, that may indicate a frozen compressor coil, incorrect fan settings, or airflow issues. If setting your thermostat's fan setting to "auto" doesn't resolve the issue, you'll probably want to call in a pro to take a look.

2. Hard Starting 

Your air conditioner doesn't follow as many steps as your furnace when it first turns on, but a few things still need to happen. A call for cooling will turn on your central house blower, outdoor condenser fan, and the compressor motor. If you stand near your outdoor unit with the AC on, you should hear the compressor engaging whenever the thermostat requests cool air.

Compressors can be noisy, but they should usually start smoothly and without too much drama. If it sounds like the compressor is struggling, you might have a hard-starting condition. Even if the compressor eventually turns on, hard-starting places more wear on your equipment and can cause electrical faults. You'll usually want to address the problem quickly to avoid more costly repairs.

3. Short or Long Cycling

Pay attention to how long your air conditioner runs. If you keep your thermostat at a reasonable temperature, your air conditioner usually shouldn't run for longer than twenty minutes. Likewise, your air conditioner shouldn't turn on and off more than a few times per hour. Both conditions are potentially problematic and can cause substantial wear and tear on your system.

If you notice your air conditioner long or short cycling, you'll want to get an AC repair service to examine and service the system before you use it to cool your home on the hottest summer days.