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woman overheating when her air conditioning isn't working

Why Is My Air Conditioning Not Cooling My House?

Your air conditioner is supposed to protect you from the summer heat. Your air conditioner turns on, and it is blowing air, possibly hot air. So why isn’t it cooling your house? There are many potential reasons why your air conditioner isn’t cooling, which might require solutions that are either simple and inexpensive or might require a complete replacement of the unit. Here are a few things to consider when your air conditioner isn’t keeping your house cool.

It’s Not Big Enough

One of the simplest explanations for why your air conditioner isn’t cooling the house is that it’s just not big enough. Find out how powerful the air conditioner is by looking at the unit or in the manual. Then consult the chart under buying guidance to see how many square feet it can supposedly cool. (Note: Some air conditioners are rated in “tons.” 1 ton=12,000 BTUs.)

It’s Too Old

Like all the rest of us, your air conditioner is not as young as it used to be. Air conditioners lose effectiveness with age. It’s usually a slow decline, but it accelerates after about 10-12 years.

If your air conditioner isn’t cooling properly, check the documentation to see how old it is. It’s probably older than you think.

Dirty Air Filter

air conditioning isn't cooling the house - dirty air conditioning air filters Anything that blows air through your house should have an air filter to catch as much dust and debris as possible. Unfortunately, these air filters can get clogged over time, making it hard for the unit to blow cold air. Check the filter, and if it’s dirty, replace or clean it, depending on the type you have.

Then get on a regular schedule for cleaning or replacing the filter. A clogged filter can stress your air conditioning unit, leading it to degrade or fail early.

Blocked Coils in Outdoor Unit

An air conditioning unit has two parts: one that cools off the air in the house, and another that radiates the heat outside. The outside unit is exposed to the environment because it needs good air flow to function effectively. Unfortunately, this means that the outdoor coils can get all kinds of dirt and debris on them – spiders especially like to lay their eggs on them in the fall when the unit isn’t being used so much – which keeps them from effectively radiating heat.

Once you clean the coils, set up a schedule for cleaning your air conditioning unit coils. Making it part of spring cleaning is a good choice.

Dirty Coils in Indoor Unit

Your indoor unit not only cools the air, it also condenses water from the air. This helps dry out the air –which might be a benefit or could contribute to air conditioning sickness – but it contributes to dirt collection on the coils. As dirt collects, it keeps the air conditioning unit from cooling the air effectively.

Set up a schedule to clean the air conditioning unit regularly.

Frozen Evaporator Coil

Another potential problem with the water condensing on the coils is that it can freeze, creating a layer of ice that insulates the coils from the air. You’ll have to turn the air conditioner off until the coils defrost, then run it at a lower power setting to avoid freezing.

If your coils freeze repeatedly, it’s time to get the unit serviced or replaced.

Thermostat Problems

air conditioning isn't cooling the house - broken thermostat Sometimes, the problem isn’t the air conditioning unit; it’s the thermostat. First, check the thermostat to make sure it’s properly set. Newer thermostats have complicated programming options that can make it hard.

Of course, it could be that the thermostat is not working properly. A mechanic will be able to evaluate the thermostat to see if it’s functioning correctly.

Refrigerant Leak

Some people think air conditioning runs on gas because they know that air conditioning units sometimes need their gas recharged. The gas in question here isn’t fuel; it’s refrigerant, which allows the air conditioner to create hot and cold zones to cool your home. If there’s a refrigerant leak, the air conditioner won’t be able to produce the cold and hot zones necessary.

If you have a refrigerant leak, it will need to be patched, and then the system given a supply of gas that will let it function properly. However, by the time an air conditioning unit needs new gas, it might be on its last legs and due for replacement.

Poor Insulation

It’s possible that the problem isn’t your air conditioning unit but the house itself. If your house is not well insulated, so much heat can get into your home that the AC just can’t keep up with it. Consider adding insulation to the house.

It’s Too Hot

Another possibility is that it’s just too hot outside. With climate change and the increased incidence of heat events like “heat domes,” people are facing more hot conditions than ever. This will stress the unit and prevent it from making the house cool and comfortable.

If you’ve already checked your insulation, there are a few things you can try to cut down on the heat your house picks up. Try closing curtains and blinds on the sunny side of the house. If you don’t have effective curtains, you can even try putting up cardboard covered with aluminum foil on the hot windows.

Consider an Evaporative Cooler as a Supplement or Alternative

If your air conditioning isn’t effectively cooling your house, you might be looking at an expensive fix. It might have you wondering whether air conditioning is even worthwhile in your situation. In many instances, an evaporative cooler might be a better choice for you.

An evaporative cooler might be a great choice if:

In these situations, an evaporative cooler can more effectively replace your air conditioning unit.

Since 1990, Portacool has been manufacturing evaporative coolers in our Center, Texas facility. We have become recognized as a leader in the cooling industry, and we can help you find the best cooling solution for your home or workspace.

If you are considering a Portacool evaporative cooler, please visit a local or online retailer. If you have more general questions, please contact us today.