Air Conditioner on the Fritz during the First Hot Weekend of the Year? What Are Your Emergency Options?

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Transitioning from cold winter nights to cooler spring weather can allow you to sleep with the windows open and only a ceiling fan for climate control. However, as temperatures continue to climb, you may find it's time to close your windows again and turn on the air conditioner. Unfortunately, a winter of inactivity may leave your air conditioner rattly and hard to operate—in some situations it may even refuse to produce (or blow) any cool air entirely. What should you do if your air conditioner stops working once the mercury has risen and you can't quickly contact an emergency repair company? Read on for some tips and tricks that may allow you to maintain your home at a comfortable temperature while waiting for an air conditioner repair person to arrive. 

What are some issues that could be affecting your air conditioner?

Before you arrange for emergency air conditioner repair services, you'll want to check on a few common issues that often plague central air conditioner units. Ensuring that one of these issues isn't the culprit will give you a better idea of the repair(s) needed, while solving the problem yourself will save you the cost of a service call and let you spend the rest of your evening or weekend in comfort.

Check the breakers and fuse box

If your air conditioning unit isn't turning on at all or if it turns on only briefly and immediately shuts off, you may be dealing with a power interruption. Check your breaker box to ensure the power to the air conditioner is still turned on and make sure none of the fuses associated with this breaker have blown. You may also want to examine the outdoor air conditioning unit yourself to make sure there are no bare wires or other potential sources of electricity loss. While repairing or recovering bare wires may not be something you feel comfortable tackling yourself, knowing the source of the problem can make the repair process much easier and less expensive for a professional because you've already done the diagnosis for them.

Check the condenser coils 

Another potential source of air conditioner trouble can be dust or debris caught in the condenser coils within the unit. This condenser is usually located beneath a screwed-in panel on the back of the air conditioner, but it may also be accessible through the air conditioning unit's fan. Before examining the condenser coils, ensure that the power supply to the unit has been disconnected. Use a soft, slightly damp cloth or pressurized duster to remove any dust or dirt from the condenser coils, as well as any debris that may have fallen into the fan and ended up inside the unit. Often, you'll find that after reconnecting power and attempting to power on your air conditioner, it will run (and cool) as well as normal.

What should you do if your initial troubleshooting efforts are unsuccessful? 

If your preliminary checking and troubleshooting hasn't solved your air conditioning issue, your next step (after having your home placed on the emergency repair person's list to visit) is to get your home back to a comfortable temperature as quickly as possible. Not only is this important for your own physical comfort, but it can reduce the amount of strain on appliances like your refrigerator and freezer (which find it much harder to keep your food at a safe temperature when the surrounding air is hot).

One way to accomplish this is by rigging up a rudimentary evaporative cooler (or swamp cooler). These coolers operate by misting ultra-fine water vapor into the air, where it reduces the ambient temperature of the room—much like sweating can cool your skin upon evaporation. A simple swamp cooler composed of a fan blowing over a bag or block of ice (or even a bucket of cold water) should help lower the temperature in any room by a few degrees or more.

If you're facing a longer period of time without a working central air conditioner, you may also want to consider purchasing an inexpensive window or portable air conditioning unit as a backup. One of these units should be sufficient to keep the main part of your home cool until your air conditioner can be repaired, and it will give you an easy source of cool air if you run into any additional trouble over the years. 

Contact a service like McKinney Heating & Air Conditioning to set up your repair appointment.