When I asked my boss to let me leave three hours earlier last Friday, it raised some eyebrows.
“My air conditioner has broken down. Most techs are booked out for the following week. It wasn’t easy to find someone to do the job today!” – I explained.
I guess, my boss would have been more willing to believe me if it hadn’t been Friday. Anyway, soon, I was at home. By the time the tech eventually arrived (and he was four hours late!), I had already called my friends to say I would have to skip our evening in town.
I shouldn’t have done it, though. Why? Because all the repairs took less than five minutes! The tech pushed several buttons – and the system was alive again!
That was it. I couldn’t help thinking the time had come for me to get certified as a complete idiot.
The silver lining? Now I knew what my next article was going to be about. I have interviewed six professional HVAC technicians with at least three years of experience servicing the New York City. I asked only one question – the list of things to check before you call a technician.
What is it safe to do before calling in an HVAC tech (or instead)?
While the very idea of dealing with the appliance may look intimidating, there’re several operations safe even for beginners:
– make sure the air filters aren’t clogged or dirty
If you mark the dates when the filters need to be cleaned in your calendar, you’ll be less likely to forget about it.
– reset the air conditioner
– make sure the vents, ducts, and grills haven’t been blocked
– check the circuit breaker (is it on?)
The power switches and breakers could have been turned off for various reasons, for instance, during the installation of another household appliance. Not sure where to find the circuit breaker in the house where you live? Try the garage, basement, hallway or storage room.
– replace the batteries
If you notice the thermostat isn’t lit, there’s every possibility that after you replace the batteries, you’ll have the system working again
– are there leaves, branches or any other unwanted objects in the outside unit?
You can rinse the outside unit using a house with a spray nozzle. Don’t forget to shut off the power first. It would be reasonable to make sure there’re no trees or bushes at least within 3 feet from the outside unit (you may trim them). Otherwise, blockages can happen pretty often.
– check out for the error code
If you already have some experience in repair, try troubleshooting the system using the error code as a key. You can find Mitsubishi, Carrier, Amana or Samsung air conditioner error codes online with explanations and repair tips. Read the explanation and decide whether it’s a DIY job or you need to call in the pros.
– are pipes not frozen?
In some cases, when the system is used too heavily, pipes can get frozen. Try thawing the system out. For this, the unit should be shut off at the thermostat, while the fan should be turned on.
– check/reset the thermostat
First, is the thermostat set below 70 degrees? If yes, this can freeze the air conditioning system.
Also, it’s not unusual for the heating and cooling system to stop working properly when there’s something wrong with the thermostat. Buy a cheap thermometer and make sure the temperature it is showing is the same as that on the thermostat. If not, follow the instructions from the user’s manual to reset the thermostat.
– if you have a furnace with a blower, you may try taking it apart and lubricating it on your own
– are the wires OK?
It’s not uncommon for homeowners to accidentally clip wires while using a weed whacker around the outdoor unit
What tasks typically need the expertise of a professional?
– installation of a new air conditioner
– annual maintenance
– air conditioner repair
In case you’ve tried the suggestions in the “safe” section, but the system is still not working, it can be reasonable to call in a tech. If you rent the house, call the owner (or property manager) before doing anything with the air conditioner, especially before you call in a tech. Get the owner’s consent for the repairs that might be necessary.