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A/C Repair: When to DIY, When to Call the Pros

A/C Repair: When to DIY, When to Call the Pros

Your air conditioning system is one of the most important appliances in your home.

So what happens if it breaks?

Depending on the repair, you might be able to fix it yourself. However, you should only go the DIY route if you know what you're doing. Otherwise, you can put yourself or your home in danger.

We've put together this guide to help you tell a DIY job apart from an a/c repair that needs professional attention.

So let's get started!

Is DIYing a Good Idea When It Comes to Your Air Conditioner?

It depends.

If you don't have the right skills or tools, it might be easier to let a professional handle the job. But if you do have the know-how and the supplies, there are a few basic air conditioning repairs you might be able to handle on your own.

But before you jump into a DIY fix, you should think about these things.

Cost 

Just because you aren't hiring a professional a/c technician doesn't mean a DIY job will be cheap. If you have to buy new tools or new parts, the job can actually cost more money than what you would have spent hiring an expert.

You should also think about the risk of making a mistake.

If you buy a new part for your air conditioner but make a mistake while installing it, you might have to buy a new part. Because of this, repairs that might seem cheap can add up fast.

Messing up a DIY repair can also make the original problem worse than it already was. You might have to hire a professional anyway to fix your DIY fix.

Don't DIY something that'll end up being cheaper if you have a professional do the work instead.

Parts 

We mentioned this briefly above, but you might have to buy new parts when you DIY your a/c repairs. Sometimes, this isn't a problem. But it can also be challenging.

For example, if your air conditioner is on the older side, you might have trouble finding the parts you need. You also have to make sure the parts you buy will fit your a/c unit. If you don't know what type of unit you have, you might end up buying the wrong thing.

You should also understand that you might have to pay more for parts when you buy them yourself.

A professional air conditioner expert will have all the necessary parts on hand when they come in to fix your unit. In other words, you won't have to think about it.

man repairing air conditioning unit

Experience 

Being good at other home DIY projects doesn't mean you have the necessary experience to take on a major home application like your air conditioner. You shouldn't attempt to DIY major a/c repairs if you don't have the right experience.

Otherwise, you can end up making the problem worse or even putting yourself in danger.

Danger

If you don't know what you're doing, some a/c repairs can be dangerous. You should never do any DIY repairs that involve the refrigerant, gas leaks, electrical problems, etc.

Trying to DIY your way through these issues can put you and your home in danger. It's not worth hurting yourself to save money on an a/c repair.

If you think the repair might be dangerous to work on yourself, never hesitate to call a professional to servce your HVAC unit.

A/C Unit Repairs You Can DIY

If your air conditioner needs a simple and safe repair, doing it yourself can be a faster—and cheaper—way to take care of the problem. But again, it's important to use your judgment and trust your instincts.

If a repair doesn't seem safe, don't mess with it. But if it's small, you can probably handle it yourself.

Here are a few basic a/c fixes you can do without expert help.

replacing air filter in air hvac

Cleaning or Replacing the Filter

Cleaning your air filter is a basic air conditioner maintenance job you should perform regularly. Your a/c filters catch particles like dust, pollen, and other debris and keep them from circulating through your home.

In other words, the improve the indoor air quality in your home.

You'll also need to replace your air filter a few times year. The exact lifespan of your filter depends on the type of air conditioning unit you have. Some can last an entire year, but the average time is about 90 days.

Here are some signs you need to clean (or replace) your a/c filter:

  • They look dirty
  • They're damaged
  • You or your family experiences symptoms or asthma or other respiratory problems
  • The air smells dusty
  • Everything is covered in dust

You can clean your filter by taking it out and vacuuming it. If you want to give it a deep cleaning, soak it after vacuuming in one part dish soap one part water for an hour. If your filter is too big to fit in your sink,  you can also spray it down with a hose to remove any remaining debris.

But make sure you turn your air conditioner off before you take out the filter.

System Won't Turn On

There are a few reasons your a/c unit might not turn on.

To start, check your thermostat. Is it at the right temperature? Is it switched onto heat instead of cool? These are simple fixes, but they are easy to overlook.

If your thermostat seems fine, go and check your circuit breaker. If this doesn't fix the problem, faulty contactors or burned-out capacitors might be the culprit. You'll need to call professional help.

Minor Leaks

If you find water under or around your unit, there's a leak somewhere. While minor leaks are a problem, you can probably fix them on your own.

For example, the leak might be caused by a clogged drain. You should be able to remove the clog without a lot of trouble. A leak can also be the result of a loose pipe or component. You might be able to tighten these on your own.

Rattling Noises

A rattle or clattering sound coming from your a/c usually means some of the parts are coming loose inside the unit. If you have an outdoor unit, it might mean twigs or leaves have found their way inside as well.

To fix the problem, turn off your unit and clean out any debris that shouldn't be there. Then tighten the fan or other loose parts. This should make the sound go away when you turn your unit back on.

Dead Thermostat

batteries for thermostatDid your thermostat stop working?

Before you call a professional, check the batteries. Sometimes fresh batteries are all your thermostat needs to start running again.

If new batteries don't make a difference, you might need to call a professional.

When to Call an A/C Professional

There are times your a/c will need professional help. If you notice any of these repairs, you should pick up the phone and call an expert instead of trying to solve the problem on your own.

High Electric Bills

If your energy bill seems high, it might be the fault of your air conditioner. Units that are old or that aren't efficient require more energy to run. In other words, they'll suck up more electricity and more money from your bank account.

There isn't much you can do for an old or inefficient a/c.

A professional a/c technician might be able to make a few repairs that fix the problem. But in most cases, a high electric bill is a sign you need to replace your unit.

Major (Or Hidden) Leaks

If your unit has any major leaks, you shouldn't try to repair them yourself. Your unit might need brand new parts to fix the problem.

You should also call a professional if the leak is small but hidden. Even a small leak can waste a lot of water and money.

And stay away from refrigerant leaks. These can be dangerous, so leave it to the professionals.

Mold Growth

Mold in your a/c means there's a leak or excess moisture that shouldn't be there. Cleaning up the mold won't fix the underlying problem.

Mold can also lead to serious health conditions.

If you see any mold in your system, something has gone wrong. You should call a professional and let them figure out and fix the problem.

woman smelling foul odor in air conditioning unit

Foul Smells

A rotten egg smell indicates a gas leak. A burning smell could be the result of an electrical problem. A musty smell means there's mold growing inside your system.

These things can be dangerous. If you notice any of these smell, you should call a professional right away.

Loud/Scary Noises

While you can fix rattling sounds on your own, other loud or scary noises, such as screaming, banging, clanging, or buzzing, can indicate much more serious problems.

If the noises are loud and sound unnatural, you should turn off your a/c right away. Call a professional to come out as soon as possible.

DIY vs Professional A/C Repair: Which Is Better?

DIY fixes can be a fast and cheap way to solve basic a/c repairs. But if the a/c repair is major or potentially dangerous, you should never try to fix it on your own.

Not sure who to call instead?

Schedule service today to have an repair technician inspect a/c unit today!

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