One side effect of the social distancing we’re all doing is that you may be putting off projects or repairs because it may not be safe to have a technician come over. HVAC services are considered “essential,” especially in summer and winter, but you’re still right to be careful and ask “do I really need to have someone come out here?” So to help you with that question, here are some things you can do at home to check whether or not you really need to call someone in.
Check the power
It sounds obvious but sometimes people forget it. If your system just won’t come on at all, check the circuit breaker to see if the switch controlling the AC has tripped.
Check the thermostat
Presumably, you’ve already checked to see what it’s set to, and that was when you noticed a problem. But also check the batteries if it uses them because low batteries can cause problems.
Check the filter
A dirty and clogged filter can cause problems for your system, especially over the long term, and even if it’s not the main issue at the moment, it needed to be changed anyway. It’s a preventative maintenance step that can sometimes also help with specific issues.
Clean what’s dirty
If any of your system units is visibly dirty, it may help to clean it. Clearing leaves or other debris away from the outdoor unit is an easy first step, but if you decide to open up and clean out the inside of it as well, be sure the whole system is turned off before removing the cover.
In some conditions, your air conditioner’s coils can form ice, and paradoxically they won’t work properly. If you look into your system and see icy coils, don’t try to clean them yourself. Simply let them defrost on their own by turning off the system, or by switching it to fan only.
Check power switches
Some attics and crawlspaces have circuits that are controlled by a standard light switch. Flipping that switch down could shut off your entire system, so make sure you know whether important things are controlled by a switch and check that before deciding whether to call someone.
Check the ducts
This assumes you can get into your attic or access wherever the ducts are, but if you can you’ll want to check if there are any obvious problems, like a register being shut that should be open, or a major break that loses air pressure, or even a buildup of dust and dirt that restricts air flow.
Check for liquids
Condensed water from the indoor air collects on AC coils and typically drains away. If there’s a puddle of liquid or moist patch around your unit, check to see if the drain is clogged and if you can reach it to unclog it. If the system itself is leaking where it shouldn’t be, you’ll need to call a technician.
Another useful tip, no matter the problem, is just googling a description of it. You might need to read a few webpages and google different terms, but YouTube is chock full of explanatory videos that can help you learn about your HVAC issue and form a better judgment about whether you can handle this one or should leave it to the pros.