HVAC: When to Fix It Yourself & When to Call a Pro

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Posted December 6, 2018

Whether your home is equipped with central air conditioning, a heater, or a more complete HVAC unit, the truth is that eventually, even the best systems will one day have problems. 

While proper maintenance is important, we understand that it can be easy to accidentally let HVAC care fall by the wayside in favor of more obvious home repairs and projects. 

However, when you’re having HVAC problems, you’ll notice it right away. The good news is that troubleshooting HVAC units is, in some cases, something you can do on your own. 

But when should you leave things up to the professionals, and when can you handle an issue on your own? 

That’s what this HVAC troubleshooting guide is all about. 

If Your Home’s Temperature Is Inconsistent 

One of the most frustrating HVAC issues is experiencing uneven temperatures in your home. 

One room might keep you nice and cool, while it can feel like the next room over is barely getting any AC at all. 

So, what’s the issue? 

There are several potential problems that could be causing this. 

First of all, check to make sure that your air filter is clean. This is a simple DIY fix. After all, if your filter is clogged, the air will have serious trouble circulating through your house. (Plus, you’ll also likely notice higher heating and cooling bills.)

In some cases, you may just need to buy a new filter, or clean out the one you have. 

Additionally, uneven temperatures could be caused by the placement of your furniture. Make sure that your sofas and chairs (or other larger pieces of furniture) aren’t blocking your vents. 

You should also make it a point to vacuum the vents about once a month. If you have pets, you may need to do this about once per week.

These are the easier troubleshooting HVAC tips for an uneven home. However, in some cases, you can’t fix the issue on your home. 

It’s possible that your HVAC unit actually isn’t big enough for your home — or that it was installed incorrectly. In some cases, the issue may be in the ductwork. Dust and other debris can be easily removed by an HVAC expert, which will correct the airflow’s balance in your home. 

A professional will also be able to take a look and confirm that there aren’t any leaks in your air ducts. They can also advise you as to whether or not you need to add more insulation to your home’s attic or basement. 

You’ve Spotted Water Leaks Around the Unit

These issues are, of course, also one of the easiest problems to see — which is why they account for almost 90% of all central air service calls. 

First, you need to figure out if the problem is with the unit’s overflow pan, which is what’s meant to catch coolant or condensation in the first place. Just grab a flashlight and take a look at the corners and the area where they leak’s coming from. 

If you spot a leak or a hole, don’t try to repair it. The truth is that you’ll just end up having to deal with the problem again in a few weeks. Order a new pan, and have an HVAC tech install it. 

So, what should you do if the issue isn’t with the overflow pan? 

You’re likely dealing with leaks because of clogs in the unit’s condensate line, which is what moves excess condensation outside of the unit. If the clog is left untreated for too long, your unit may actually shut off on its own to stop the unit from getting damaged. 

Many people assume that, when this happens, their AC unit has just “died.” The truth is that it can be quickly and safely fixed by a professional.

If you’re feeling handy, you can also use your vacuum cleaner to attempt to pull the junk out from the condensate unit. 

However, make sure the unit is completely turned off before you do any work on it!

If Your HVAC Unit Is Making Strange Noises

Tired of your HVAC unit’s clanging and banging keeping you awake for half the night? 

Is your AC making an odd buzzing sort of sound? Do you hear hissing, rattling, or any other kind of noise? 

We understand that these things can be seriously irritating. However, try to think of these HVAC problems as your unit trying to tell you something. 

For example, if you keep hearing hissing noises, it’s a sure sign that your system is losing lots of air through leaking ducts. In some cases, this hissing also means that your filter isn’t fitted correctly on the unit itself. So, the air gets squeezed out through a gap. 

If you hear clanging and banging, this might indicate that you have loose parts somewhere inside of the unit. This could mean that a part of the motor fan has come loose, or even that older pipes have started knocking into each other. 

Especially if you hear clanging, you need to act quickly. These loose parts can quickly cause serious damage to your entire unit. 

What about if your HVAC unit is making a bizarre rattling sound? 

First of all, if you have an outdoor HVAC unit, make sure that leaves and twigs haven’t gotten stuck inside of it. Check out this awesome guide on how to get rid of leaves safely. 

If you suspect that the rattling is coming from a problem inside of your system, it’s best left to a professional. 

Turn the HVAC unit off completely before doing any work on it yourself, or before calling in a professional to help. 

If Your Heater Is on the Fritz

In some cases, especially in the colder winter months, you’ll notice right away if the heat doesn’t seem to be turning on. 

There are lots of reasons why this can happen. 

First of all, let’s talk about the simplest solution to this and many other HVAC problems.

Make sure that your thermostat is actually on and set properly. It sounds silly, but you’d be surprised how often people end up calling on an HVAC tech, only to find that the issue is really just with the thermostat. 

Is the sunlight interfering with your thermostat? Is it clean? Have you actually put it on the right setting? 

If you know this isn’t the issue, then you might be dealing with problems from the pilot light. Make sure that it’s actually lit.

If you have a furnace that runs on gas, you’ll need to ensure that the gas meter in your home has been turned on. This may be the source of the issues with the heater. If this is the issue — or if you still can’t identify the problem — it’s time to ask an expert for their help. 

If Your AC Unit Isn’t Cooling Your Home

Of course, equally as frustrating as having a unit that won’t keep your house warm is one that can’t do a good job of cooling it. 

In most cases, this happens because of problems within the coils of the unit. Your unit’s evaporator coils are meant to absorb the air’s heat and then send it through air ducts. But, if they’re totally corroded, things won’t be able to work properly. 

In some cases, you may need to have them replaced entirely, which will certainly require the work of an expert HVAC technician. 

Sometimes, they may be able to be salvaged with a professional clean. 

Another issue may be within the compressor of the unit. This is another essential part of the heat exchange process.

The problem here is that there’s an imbalance when it comes to the amount of refrigerant your unit needs. If there’s too little, things won’t work completely. This is another situation that’s best left to the professionals. 

You should also take a look at the condenser coils, which are outside and easily damaged. In most cases, using a hose to clean these out at least once a year will keep them in good working order. 

However, if it’s been a bit longer since they received a deep clean? 

You may need a professional to make them sparkle again. 

If the Motor Stops Working

Let’s now address an important troubleshooting HVAC tip that, unfortunately, many of us have had to deal with in the past. 

Your unit seems to be working perfectly — until seemingly out of nowhere, the motor just totally stops running. 

So, what does it mean, and what should you do? 

In most cases, when your motor suddenly stops working, the breakers/fuses have simply gotten too hot. However, sometimes, the opposite is true. Especially if you live in a colder climate, it’s possible that ice has frozen around your coils, making it pretty much impossible for the motor to work correctly. 

The truth is that there are lots of different reasons why your motor has suddenly stopped working. If you suspect that it’s not because of issues with your breakers, the best bet is to have a professional look at it. 

In some cases, it may be time to replace the motor altogether. There could be an issue with the airflow, the blower capacitor, or even just a buildup of gunk. 

Don’t guess when you’re experiencing this issue. Instead, let an expert handle it.

Your Utility Bills Are High 

The final section of our HVAC trouble shooting guide refers to what you should do when you notice a sudden spike in your heating and cooling costs. 

The good news is that, in the majority of cases, the problem is with the filter. Because it’s clogged with pet hair, dust, and other debris, it will have to work twice as hard just to give you half of the results that it did in the past. 

This is also important because a dirty filter impacts the overall air quality of your home. Especially if you live with someone with allergies or a weaker immune system, this is something that you need to take seriously. 

Aim to change your filter at least once every two months. If you have a pet, you may need to do it once every thirty days. 

If your bills still haven’t gone down? 

Bring in a professional as soon as you can. They’ll be able to pinpoint exactly what’s causing your bills to go through the roof-and make them more manageable again. 

Troubleshooting HVAC Issues: Get Professional Help

We hope that this HVAC trouble shooting guide has helped you to identify some common issues with your own unit. 

Of course, in some cases, troubleshooting HVAC issues on your own will only make the problem much worse. 

Some things truly are best left to the professionals. When you’re dealing with a more serious issue, don’t settle for anything less than the best. 

Instead, get in touch with us to schedule a service appointment or an inspection. We offer lots of different HVAC services, and can also assist you with plumbing and other electrical services. 

Don’t spend one more day with a faulty HVAC unit. Instead, let us help you to fix the problem once and for all. 

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