Why is my AC Unit Squealing?
When transitioning from winter to spring weather, it could mean any number of things when your air conditioning unit needs some routine maintenance. With our this blog post, we walked you through necessary steps to take in preparing your outdoor AC unit for the more regular usage that the weather shift requires.
Cleaning and maintaining is one thing, but what if after all that there is still a high-pitched squealing noise? It’s highly more likely that you’ll experience this in the spring, as your compressor/capacitor has been exposed to the winter elements for months at a time (including ice). What could this sound mean and is there an easy way to fix it?
If you’re experiencing this issue, it is likely one of three things: the bearings on your condenser fan’s motor, the belt connecting the motor to the blower has slipped, or it’s actually not a problem at all.
Here are a few tips to help diagnose the problem and a pointer on how to fix your noisy AC unit.
- If it’s not a problem – Many units emit a slight squeal under normal operation. This is especially the case when, at this point in the year, it has been sitting for several months and just needs to work out its kinks. A good indication that this is in fact the case is the brevity of the noise. If it’s nothing to worry about then the noise will be slight and only last for a few minutes. If it’s any longer than a few moments and any louder than ‘slight,’ then you should investigate other causes (see below).
- If it’s the belt connecting the motor to the blower – Most newer units do away with the belt system. If you have an older unit and happen to know that it is belt driven, then the issue is more than likely that the belts have been worn over the years and have slipped. You’ll hear this noise both outside and coming through the vents inside your home. If this is indeed the cause, your next step would be to replace the belt or call us.
- If it’s the bearings attached to your unit’s condenser fan – All newer units have direct-drive motors (meaning no belts). These sorts of units use a fan to draw air across the condenser coils located inside of your compressor. If you have a direct-drive motor then you will hear the squealing or grinding coming from your outside unit. This means that the bearings on the fan motor are shot and the motor will need to be replaced. We strongly urge you not to fix this on your own as it could increase the amount of damage to your compressor, resulting in a more costly fix.
As you gear up for cold weather, do you experience a potent smell when you turn on your heater? Visit this blog post for simple DIY ways to identify and fix the odor(s) before the Winter hits!
Using a motor lubricant or spray lubricant on the motor shaft to temporarily relieve the noise is a temporary fix. This, however, is NOT a permanent fix and the problem should be tended to by a professional as soon as possible.
Your HVAC (AC) unit could be overworked! There are several reasons that this could be the case. Most commonly it is working too hard to decrease the humidity level inside of your home. Click here to learn from us how to decrease your in-home humidity level. We offer whole home dehumidifiers which will significantly decrease its level as well as lengthen the life of your AC unit!
That’s where we come in! Schedule an appointment with BR McGinty today to get your AC unit in proper working condition for the spring!
How Lightning Strikes Affect your Air Conditioner
No matter the time of year, a thunderstorm can be unnerving for pets, children, and those who fear the loud boom of thunder and the bright flash of lightning. Even more frightening is the idea that a nearby lightning strike can affect your home’s electrical wiring, including your HVAC unit. Arkansas has 100 days of precipitation a year on average, which means it’s highly likely that a nearby lightning strike during a thunderstorm can damage electrical and plumbing fixtures.
The initial lightning strike isn’t generally what damages HVAC units right away—it’s the power surges following an outage that can cause air conditioners to receive damage in a storm. A power surge is a spike in voltage and varies in both duration and magnitude. While most homes use 120-volt, 60 Hz, single phase electric power, a power surge spikes the voltage to 169 volts, causing damage to appliances and electronics that rely on that power to work.
When lightning strikes damage an air conditioning unit, the effect may not be immediately apparent. Over the course of a few months following a nearby lightning strike, you might notice your air conditioner doesn’t work as well. Here are a few problems with your air conditioning to watch for following a lightning strike:
- Damaged capacitor: The most common air conditioning part to give way following a power surge, a damaged capacitor can lead to further problems, including compressor failure.
- Blown fuses: If the voltage has damaged your air conditioner, you are more likely to encounter an air conditioning system which trips a breaker or blows the fuse due to damaged electrical lines.
- Burned wires: If a power surge damages electrical wires within the air conditioner or within your home, your air conditioner might not work.
- Damaged compressor: One of the most expensive parts to fix in an air conditioning unit, a damaged compressor may not be noticeable right away. It can take weeks or months for an air conditioning unit to finally fail and indicate that the compressor was damaged.
It’s important to have your HVAC unit inspected following a lightning strike to avoid more expensive replacements down the road.
How do you prevent damage to air conditioners following a lightning strike? For starters, it’s not possible to entirely prevent electrical damage from lightning strikes. Since we can’t predict when or where lightning can strike, the best you can hope for is little to no damage to your home if the worst happens. If a direct lightning strike damages your air conditioner, for example, there would have been little you could have done to stop it. You can, however, take steps when a thunderstorm is predicted to prevent harm from power surges.
First, it’s important to use outlet surge suppressors between appliances and the electrical outlet. This minimizes the damage left behind by power surges and can protect your devices from the effects of a surge.
Second, you might consider panel-mounted surge protection to reduce the damage to your home’s electric gateway. Surge protection for your entire home is a good investment to save wiring and appliances from the damage a lightning strike can cause.
Finally, to prevent damage to your air conditioning unit, turn off the air conditioner at the thermostat during a lightning storm. If power is not running to the unit when the lightning hits nearby, it’s less likely that there will be serious damage than if the unit was turned on.
Why Does My AC Unit Smell Funny When I Turn it On?
When getting into our summer months, it might be a good time to bring up the topic that a lot of you may be wondering about: the odor that is emitted from your HVAC unit. We are steadily having to use our air conditioners on a more regular basis as we progress further into the summer. You may have noticed that there is a strange odor when you run your unit. What sort of odor is it? Depending on the kind of smell—if you can put your finger on it—it could be any number of things causing it; meaning there could be any number of ways to fix it. Throughout this blog post we are going to try to help you diagnose the smell which will in turn help you to alleviate the problem.
What Does Your AC Unit Smell Like?
- Mildew? – If the air that is coming through your supply registers is reminiscent of a wet towel, mildew could certainly be your problem. What this means is that there could be mold and/or fungus growing in or around your outside A/C unit. This is a very common problem. As we have stated in previous blog posts, an HVAC unit not only adjusts the temperature inside of your home, but it also eliminates or lowers the humidity levels as well. If your compressor is not drained properly, mold and mildew may grow on any lingering moisture. You may also consider changing your unit’s filters, as this is often the cause for this particular odor.
- Rotten eggs? – This smell can usually be boiled down to one root cause: dead animal(s). This is probably the issue if the smell that you are experiencing is of a “spoiled” nature. Animals will, especially during the winter months, seek shelter inside of your HVAC unit. It is not advisable for you to clean the unit out yourself if this is the issue. There are many health hazards that are connected to dead animals, especially if they have been sitting a while. Contact us and we will gladly come out to help you in this instance.
- Sewage? – This one, while self explanatory, can be one of the most hazardous causes of odor. This usually means that there is a backup in the sewer system. This can be caused by a sewer vent pipe that has ruptured near ducting. When this happens, even the littlest bit of methane that could leak into your ventilation system can be incredibly dangerous. If this is the case then it is important that you contact us immediately to rectify the problem.
- Feet? – The smell of feet coming through your supply registers usually points to stagnant water in your unit that isn’t drained properly. As you recall from the information regarding the smell of mildew, if this issue isn’t taken seriously and is forgotten then it’s likely that mold and mildew will become an issue later down the road. The sooner you address this smell the less damage you are doing to your HVAC unit.
- Gunpowder? – It’s safe to say that if you smell gunpowder coming through your vents then you are experiencing an electrical problem, hence the burning smell. These problems often happen to older homes because their units have usually been around for a while. All it takes to fix this smell is replacing the circuit board (which has likely shorted) and/or replace the blower fan because its motor has burned out. We here at BR McGinty take care of both of the above listed issues regarding electrical problems with your unit.
As you can see, it’s important for you to identify what kind of smell you are experiencing in order to adequately respond to it. So turn your A/C unit on this afternoon—is there a smell? What kind? If you need any sort of help whatsoever, be sure to give us a call so we can come on over and fix the problem.
Leaking AC Unit
Problem: Homeowners sometimes experience water leaking around their indoor air conditioner near the furnace. You may uncover your AC leaking because your air is not blowing as cold or you see a visible leak. There are a number of possible causes:
- First, there could be a stopped up drain often caused by dirt dauber nests clogging the pipe that drains the cooling systems outside or sludge can build up.
- Second, the AC unit may have a dirty filter that needs to be replaced. This may be affecting the AC’s performance and causing the leak.
- Finally, there could be a refrigerant leak which could lead to larger problems, such as water damage if the refrigerant leak combined with a water leak freezes up the AC (during cold months) and the melting leaks water when the weather warms up.
Solution: It is recommended that customers pour a little bleach in the drain at least once a year to clear out any buildup. If you suspect a dirty filter, it is recommended you purchase one that is specific to your unit in order to clear up the issue.
Note: If you notice a leak or the above DIY repairs don’t fix your issue, it may be time to call in a specialist. A professional HVAC technician can come in and use gauges to detect problems. As part of our standard annual maintenance plan, we check filters, gauge performance, and check for stopped up drains in order to make sure your air conditioning continues to run smoothly.
AC Unit Cannot Maintain Temperature Set on Thermostat
Problem: Sometimes, you might notice you have turned on your air conditioner and it runs continuously but does not get cold. This could be a sign of a problem with the blower, the compressor, the condenser fan motor, the capacitor, or the contactor.
Solution: It is hard to say what the exact problem without seeing it in person. So many different variables and factors can go into diagnosing a problem of this magnitude. You should call an HVAC technician like those at BR McGinty. We can get your system and running within 2-3 days.
Blower is Running but Condenser Won’t Come On
Problem: If you notice your AC unit is coming on but is not blowing cold air, you’re not alone. This can be a common problem that usually involves a contactor or capacitor issue.
Solution: There are a number of things you can do to troubleshoot the problem, such as:
- Make sure the thermostat is set to cool – Although it might seem obvious, checking to make sure something with your thermostat settings hasn’t changed would be the first step to ensuring there is not a problem with your air conditioner. Once you’ve established it’s set to cool, change the temperature five degrees lower than the indoor temperature to test that it’s working.
- Look for a blown fuse or tripped circuit breaker – If you experienced a power surge, it may have tripped a circuit breaker or you may have blown a fuse which, in turn, affected your air conditioning.
- Check your main electrical panel – On older homes, you might look for a “fuse box” whereas newer homes have a circuit panel. In a fuse box, you will need to replace your blown fuse. On a circuit breaker, however, you will want to flip the tripped circuit to the “off” position and then back to the “on” position to reactivate it.
- If there are no issues with the main electrical panel, you should check the shutoff box near the AC. You might try to replace the fuse in order to fix your issue.
Note: If one of the above methods provides a temporary fix to the problem, it is important to call your cooling repair company in order to identify other problems. Although a unit pulling in too much electricity may be a small problem, a larger problem such as a system that short circuits or overheats may signal a bigger problem with more costly repairs or one that requires replacement all altogether.
Frozen AC Unit
Problem: You wake up one morning and find your home isn’t as cool as it was yesterday. When you check on your system, you see it’s frozen – literally – with ice on it. Determining what went wrong with your frozen air conditioner is an important first step.
One of the reasons it might have frozen up is restricted airflow from around the evaporation coil. What might cause blocked airflow? Common culprits include a dirty air filter, clogged ducts, inefficient blower motors, and debris buildup on your evaporator coil. Combine the blocked airflow with moisture already in the air and you’re sure to see evidence of ice buildup. Other causes may include:
- Refrigerant leak or low levels of refrigerant in the line
- Frozen internal systems if the air conditioner runs when the temperature drops below 60 degrees
Solution: If you notice your air conditioning unit has frozen off, turn it off immediately and let it thaw out. Check for blocked airflow around your evaporator coil and keep it off if the temperatures are cool.
Note: If your system still doesn’t work well after you have tried these quick fixes, you should schedule an appointment with an experienced HVAC technician who can help determine your next steps.