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9 things to check on your AC before calling for service

Have you ever had that moment of fear where you know something isn't right with your AC, but you’re almost too scared to find out? Is that HVAC service call going to cause inconvenience or about to cost money?

These steps may save you time, money and the hassle of going without air conditioning.

1. Is there electrical power to the house?

Believe it or not we get two or three calls from homeowners every year where we show up only to find out that the house and maybe even the whole neighborhood has no power. This is embarrassing and it causes some bad feelings when the service technician wants to collect payment for a service call just to say, "Call us back when the power comes on."

2. Is the gas meter turned on with your local utility provider?

Here in Birmingham, Ala., a lot of homes have gas heat. For a gas furnace, the gas meter needs to be in place and your gas account active. Five or six times every year, we find out that someone moves into a house, but has never called for gas service. This occurs mostly when someone moves from a warm climate (Florida) where there is very little heat needed.

3. Have you checked the air filter?

The airflow to your AC or heating unit is very important and air filters should be changed regularly. If they’re not changed regularly, the restriction of air can cause the AC unit to malfunction.

4. Are there batteries in the thermostat?

If the thermostat display doesn’t light up, change the batteries.

5. Has the circuit breaker been tripped?

Check the breaker in breaker box. Many people still call it a fuse box, but they haven’t used fuses in years. If the breaker to your HVAC unit has been tripped, reset the breaker. However, keep in mind that circuit breakers trip for safety reasons and if the breaker trips again, someone should look into the problem. Often, the breaker isn’t the problem, it’s something in the wiring pulling more electricity than it should.

6. Have you checked the switch on the indoor unit?

Here in Birmingham, and in many other locales, local code says there must be an on-off switch next to the indoor air handler unit for safety reasons. I’ve experienced this problem myself when my son was playing with a ball in the garage. The ball bounced over to the furnace and hit the switch, turning the unit off.

7. Did you check the disconnect switch to the outdoor unit?

This is the same thing as above here. There should be a disconnect switch at the outdoor unit. Make sure it is plugged in or flipped on. Be very careful as this switch controls the 240 volts of electricity to the outdoor AC unit and it’s very dangerous.

8.  What about the condensate pump and/or AC drain line?

Many AC units have a water safety switch to stop them from operating if water could leak into your home and ruin ceilings and floors. Checking for water in a pan under the unit could tell you the drain is clogged. Simple empty the pan and flush out the drain line and the unit may start operating again.

9. What about the safety switch in the pan under the AC unit?

We see it happen in attics where someone was moving boxes or in and out of an attic and bumped the unit or pan. This switch could be the problem. Do not bypass the safety switch or you could have a huge a water mess in your home.

If these items did not solve your problem, you should get an HVAC service professional to help.

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