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Bartels Heating & Cooling Blog

Troubleshooting vs. Repair: Know the Difference When You’ve Got AC Problems


We’ve seen countless instances where well-meaning homeowners take DIY AC repair into their own hands, only to end up causing more harm than good. While it’s commendable to want to solve problems on your own, it’s crucial to distinguish between troubleshooting and repair. Understanding the difference can save you time, money, and prevent potential hazards.

Understanding Troubleshooting vs. Repair

Troubleshooting involves identifying and diagnosing the problem: gathering information and determining what might be causing your AC issues. This process includes basic checks that anyone can perform safely without specialized tools or extensive HVAC knowledge.

Repair, on the other hand, is the process of fixing the identified problem. This typically requires specific skills, tools, and often involves handling electrical components, refrigerants, or other potentially dangerous tasks. Repairs should always be performed by a qualified HVAC contractor to ensure safety and effectiveness.

Basic Troubleshooting Steps

Before calling for professional help, there are several troubleshooting steps you can take:

  • Check the Thermostat: Ensure your thermostat is set to “cool” and the temperature is set lower than the current room temperature. Replace the batteries if your thermostat isn’t responding. Verify that the thermostat is functioning correctly by listening for the sound of the AC unit kicking in.
  • Inspect the Air Filter: A clogged air filter can restrict airflow and cause your AC to work inefficiently or even shut down. Check your filter and replace it if it’s dirty. This should be done every 1–3 months, depending on usage.
  • Examine the Circuit Breaker: Sometimes, the issue is as simple as a tripped circuit breaker. Locate your electrical panel and ensure that the breaker for your AC unit is in the “on” position. If it’s tripped, reset it and see if the AC starts working.
  • Look for Obstructions: Ensure there are no obstructions around your outdoor unit. Debris, plants, or other objects can block airflow, causing your system to overheat and shut down. Clear away any debris and give the unit plenty of space to breathe.
  • Check for Ice Buildup: Ice on your AC unit can indicate problems with airflow or refrigerant levels. Turn off your AC and let the ice melt. Clean or replace your air filter, and ensure nothing is obstructing the airflow around the unit.

When to Call in the Professionals

If your AC issues persist after basic troubleshooting, it’s time to call in a professional HVAC contractor. Here are some specific scenarios where you should definitely seek expert help:

  • Unusual Noises or Smells: If your AC unit is making strange noises or emitting unusual smells, these could be signs of serious problems such as electrical issues or mold growth. 
  • Refrigerant Leaks: Handling refrigerants requires specific certification and equipment due to their hazardous nature. If you suspect a refrigerant leak (indicated by hissing sounds or a noticeable drop in cooling efficiency), contact us immediately.
  • Electrical Problems: Issues involving electrical components, like wiring or capacitors, should never be handled by amateurs. The risk of electrical shock or fire is high. Always rely on a professional to manage these repairs.
  • Persistent Performance Issues: If your AC isn’t cooling effectively even after changing the filter and ensuring the thermostat is set correctly, there might be deeper issues at play. 

Rely on Our Professionals

When it comes to your AC unit, knowing when to troubleshoot and when to call in the experts is crucial. If you’re experiencing AC problems beyond basic troubleshooting, don’t hesitate to contact us for AC service in Fairfield. Our team of experienced technicians is here to help keep your home cool and comfortable all summer long.

Bartels Heating & Cooling has served Hamilton, OH Since 1973. We’re here for AC repair and replacement when you need it. 

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