Air conditioning proves how air conditioners are a necessity. We've outlined the essentials on air conditioning repair so you can stay cool! You may be surprised to learn that not all households in the United States sport air conditioners. In some areas where the climate is extremely arid, such as Arizona. Smaller buildings utilize water cooler (also known as a swamp cooler) systems instead of traditional air conditioning.

Who Invented The Air Conditioner?

Hand with remote control directed on air conditioner for air conditioning repair

Invented in 1902 by Willis Carrier (that name sound familiar as it's also the name of a prominent A/C manufacturer today) to reduce humidity in a printing shop where he worked. The air conditioner keeps your home comfortable and the internal environment healthier. The reduction in moisture also reduces the opportunity for toxic mold to grow. And filters help keep allergens out of the air.

Still, only 75% of homes in the US have air conditioners. And the energy consumption of these units accounts for 6% of the total electricity produced in this country each year! So yeah, the cost of running an A/C adds up quickly. And knowing when it's worthwhile to get your unit a checkup, upgrade, or have an air conditioning repair matters.

Air Conditioners 101

We're going to keep it simple but knowing the basics about how an A/C system works is vital. For understanding when you need to hire a certified professional to inspect or work on the unit. And when maintenance is something within the range of the house handyman (yes, we are talking about DIY upkeep).

If you already understand how a refrigerator works. Congratulations on a great head start as air conditioners use very similar principles. Electrical energy is used to transfer the heat trapped inside a room or home to the outside environment. Pretty straightforward, right?

Now to put that concept into a real-world application. Get comfortable with the terminology and process of how an A/C works. This knowledge shall serve you well when doing maintenance or speaking with an air conditioning repair technician.


The Process

Inside your house, the evaporator is a cooling coil of copper tubing. This is where the actual reduction of air temperature takes place. Outside the home, a condenser coil is working hard to release the heat removed from the building. Sections of aluminum fins surround both the evaporator and condenser coils.

Heat is moved using a fluid, known as the refrigerant. The system of coils is closed, and refrigerant should never be released into the environment as it's a harmful gas. The coolant is moved from the evaporator to the condenser by a pump, also called the compressor.

So, the cold liquid refrigerant is heated up in the evaporator coils until it, well, evaporates. Then the hot gas is pumped over to the condenser, where it condenses back into a liquid. Then the pump sends the fluid back inside and the process cycles over and again.

What You Can Do on Air Conditioning Repair

cleaning and air conditioning repair

Fortunately, air conditioning repair does not always need to be the first option. And there are many things you can do at home to improve the efficiency and lifespan of an A/C unit.

Don’t Ignore the Filter When Doing An Air Conditioning Repair

Changing the filter on a regular basis will improve the overall condition and efficacy of an air conditioner. Without a proper filter in place, dirt, dust, and allergens are moved around the home. And blown all over the place through the ductwork. The filter's primary purpose is to keep the evaporator coils clean and able to collect heat consistently. Dirt-covered coils will not absorb heat nearly as well as clean coils.

Just because the packaging of a filter states that it's good for 90 days does not guarantee proper filtration for that entire length of time. If you have pets or run the A/C constantly, the filter will clog up faster and need to be cleaned or replaced. Only wash filters designed for that purpose.

Coils Matter Too!

Just because you religiously change the filter doesn't mean the evaporator coils stay pristine. Over years of use, coils still get dirty so set a schedule during spring cleaning to shut off the A/C and give the coils a good wipe down.

For the condenser coils and fins outside, make sure that vegetation isn't blocking any part of the system. And when the unit is shut off, take a look inside through the vents. Keep trees trimmed back, so leaves are not dropping into the system from above. Shrubs need a good two feet of clearance from the unit too.

Coil Fins

The fins around both evaporator and condenser coils may get bent and reduce airflow through the system. For DIY experts, look for a product called a fin comb to bend the coils back into the correct place.

Down the Drain

A fact of life – drains get clogged. Passing a wire (don't let go of the wire) through open sections of the A/C's drain channels. Keeps them clearer longer and reduces the need to flush them out.

Window Checks & Winter Preps

Room air conditioners are susceptible to leaking cool air when not adequately sealed inside a window frame. Also, if you have a room A/C, but don't use it during winter months. Cover the portion of the unit sticking outside to reduce dirt and wear from climate.

Why Call for Air Conditioning Repair

man doing an air conditioning repair

Sometimes you need help, end of the debate. Top reasons to seek the assistance of an air conditioning repair professional include:

  • The A/C is making strange, loud noises
  • The A/C isn’t working
  • No matter the setting, the house is not comfortable
  • Energy bills are inexplicably high

What a Professional Can Do on Air Conditioning Repair

While there are some general maintenance options. Real air conditioning repair should remain in the hands of the professionals. Certified A/C technicians go through specialized training. And must keep up with the latest regulations and technology to retain certification.

Only an air conditioning repair technician can safely complete tasks. For instance, the refrigerant is highly controlled and releasing it into the environment is illegal. The Environmental Protection Agency, under Section 608, is authorized to fine over $37,000 for every day a violation occurs. So, don’t mess around with the refrigerant in the coils – it could end up costly!

Your A/C professional is the only one qualified to take on the following tasks:

  • Checking the refrigerant level
  • Testing the system for refrigerant leaks
  • Capturing (NOT releasing) refrigerant as needed
  • Measuring the airflow through the evaporator coils
  • Inspecting electrical terminals including cleaning and tightening connections or applying non-conductive coating when necessary
  • Oiling the motor
  • Checking belts for tension and wear (NOTE: a squealing noise indicates a problem with the belt)
  • Verifying the accuracy of the thermostat
  • Ensuring the electrical control sequence is correct (to ensure the heat and cooling systems cannot both operate at the same time)

Keep a Checklist When Doing An Air Conditioning Repair

The ENERGY STAR organization – which sets the environmental standards for thousands of appliances. Suggests having a maintenance checklist in mind for when the A/C tech comes for a yearly visit.


Make sure the thermostat checked for cooling (and heating if applicable). And upgrade your thermostat to a programmable unit to save on energy costs.

Ask about the electrical connections. Loose hardware and improper voltage to the motor will cause components to wear out faster or lead to unsafe conditions during operation. Also, make sure the technician cycles through the system from startup to shut down.

Have the tech lubricate moving parts and confirm the drainage system is working properly.

Cleaning the evaporator and condenser coils is a must. While you can do the basics, the coils need a deep clean during the inspection process. The blower should also be cleaned thoroughly to keep airflow at its peak.

If you aren’t comfortable take on maintenance by yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask your technician how to perform basic tasks such as cleaning or changing filters.

What to Look for in a Good A/C Repair Technician

air conditioning technician preparing for air conditioning repair

The options for contractors and repair services may seem overwhelming at first but follow our guidelines and ensure you get high-quality work done the first time. Here are some tips on choosing the right A/C repair professional.

Ask Around

There is no shame in asking for advice, but don't use the feedback from friends or family as a commitment to research on your behalf. The work is going to take place in your home, so take personal responsibility and follow up on leads yourself.

New to the area and don’t know your neighbors yet? Local trade organizations keep member lists for that exact reason.

Once you’ve contacted a couple of companies, don’t be shy and ask for direct customer referrals or look them up online. Pay attention to service and attitude, but also make sure they stayed within the expected budget and on task with deadlines.

Get it in Writing

Professionals provide an itemized list of all the work and break down the cost for each item including parts and labor by the hour. The estimate had better be in ink, and a good company provides a carbon copy on hand so you get a copy of the estimate too (although some companies are paperless and may send an e-mail). They should ask for your signature and sign the estimate themselves as well.

Specials and Offers

A/C service providers with long-standing histories will also know about rebates offered through companies like ENERGY STAR or the manufacturer of the new unit. If you have already chosen or purchased a unit based on price or rebates, have the make and model of the new system noted and let the contractor know this information when you initially contact them.

Certification and What it Means

The two main certifications that deserve your attention when choosing an air conditioning repair service come from the Building Performance Institute (BPI) and North American Technician Excellence (NATE). You will see the acronym HVACR when researching certifications – it stands for Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration.

BPI professionals gain additional training in areas specific to HVACR systems. Specialized certifications in A/C pumps or air leakage control could help you choose which professional is best for your needs. For instance, if some rooms are much hotter than others, an air leakage professional will know exactly what to look for and how to help.

NATE is a nonprofit organization that certifies technicians for HVACR systems. As one of the largest certification programs in the country, NATE keeps track of their techs, and you can verify certification for free online.

What to Expect During a Service Call

Expect an initial service call on your A/C to take several hours. A quality inspection includes assessing the current unit. To ensure it's the correct size for the needs of your home. Measuring airflow into and from the system, and doing a full check for leaks including the ductwork up in the attic.

Write Down What Is Wrong

To move the service call along, take some initiative. And write down which rooms are hot or cold to help identify leaks in the system. Having information such as the installation date, model and size of your unit when first arranging the visit are also helpful. So the technician arrives informed from the start.

Standard service calls can involve repair of ductwork that is kinked or torn and may need replacing. Ask your provider about any improvements available for your systems such as a programmable thermostat or duct insulation.

Installation of an A/C unit is a job for the pros. Up to 30% of your air conditioner's efficiency is lost without proper installation of the system, and that seriously runs up your energy bill. Whatever pennies you save by cutting corners on the install cost big bucks later.

Deal with the Ductwork

Because your central air conditioning system is more than just the inside and outside units. Let’s take a little time to discuss the importance of ductwork and how to stay on top of leaks. Aside from filter changes, ductwork leakage is another task you can help maintain too. Keeping ductwork sealed reduces the loss of cold air, energy use, and even the monthly power bill.

Sealing ducts and vents prohibits dust from the attic or crawlspace entering the system and blowing all over the house. Proper sealing keeps the airflow at an efficient level and allergens out of the system. Filtration works better, and the other components of the system enjoy a longer lifespan.

Here's A Video of “How To Install Ductwork The Home Depot”

Potential Problems

Leaks in the ductwork are common. And here are some important potential problems to keep in mind and address before or during a service call.

Registers and grills also referred to as vents. Lose their tight seal again the floor, ceiling or wall over time. Pull them off at least once a year for a good cleaning and make sure they sit flush when reinstalled.

Next, go through all the sections of ductwork that are obvious and easily accessible. Such as in the garage or where the system meets the attic. Seal all leaks or holes with metal-backed foiled tape. Do not use duct tape for long-term fixes as it will fall off over time.

Check The Attic

After ensuring the leaks are not in the insulated portion of your home, take a trip into the attic. The flexible ductwork in the crawlspace should run fairly straight with sloping curves instead of tight turns. The stress of kinks leads to tears in the ducts. Ductwork should be attached continuously without breaks in the lines.

For extra support, wrap the tubing in duct insulation. This will also keep the ductwork cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Duct insulation should have a rating of (R-value) of six or higher.

To keep the entire system in top working order, schedule regular maintenance at least once a year. Point out any repairs you have made in the time between inspections and service to the technician upon arrival. So they can include a spot check of those repairs as part of the call.

Yearly Maintenance Appointment

For a yearly maintenance appointment, aim outside the beginning of the season. For example, to have the A/C serviced, don't schedule at the start of summer when the swamped service companies may not have much time or flexibility in their schedule. Instead aim to have the heating system checked in early fall, before the cold kicks in. And have the air conditioning system tested in the spring before the heat has you boiling outside.

Performing maintenance such as filter changes and cleaning. Will improve the efficiency and durability of your unit.

Small repairs are sufficient to tackle on your own. But hire a professional for any upgrades to the system and also to conduct a thorough inspection at least once a year. Reliable professionals provide a written estimate detailing the expected work. And will have no problem giving references and proof of quality certifications upon request.