Know the Signs of Air Conditioner Failure

June 07, 2012

June has arrived, marking the beginning of summer and air conditioning season; your air conditioner can fail at any time if you don’t know the signs that it’s on its last legs. Take a few minutes now to consider what you should be looking for… The first thing you should think about is the age of your equipment.  A typical air conditioner will last about 10 years; if your unit is older than that, call a service technician to give it a thorough check for any potential problems. A technician can also give you an idea of the unit’s remaining life. Of course, these are things a technician will discuss with you during your annual maintenance as well. Next, consider whether your home is as cool as it has been in the past. If your air conditioner is running but your house is not as cool, it can be a sign of:

  • a clogged air filter,
  • a clogged return duct,
  • compressor failure, or
  • low Freon levels.

Now, go look at your air conditioner--both inside and outside the house. If you touch the copper line of the condenser and it’s warm, that’s compressor failure or lack of Freon. Alternatively, if there is a layer of frost or ice on the two pipes leading to the outdoor condenser, there is not enough Freon or there is blockage in the main air supply duct.  Both situations require a professional to fix.

Look for any oil spray or splatters on the air conditioner’s components.  If you see them, it indicates that a major seal gasket has blown and caused the unit’s Freon to leak.  A Freon leak should be fixed immediately; if the unit’s Freon is allowed to go dry the compressor will sustain major damage.

Is your air conditioner making any strange noises?  The only noise you should hear is the quiet hum of it working smoothly; if you’re hearing bangs, buzzes, or rattles, it’s not functioning properly. A technician can identify these noises and their root problems.

Last, consider your utility bills. Have you been blaming the rising cost of energy?  That may not actually be the case. If your bills have risen dramatically and quickly, look no further than your air conditioner. A failing compressor will not be running efficiently and will cause your utility bills to rise. 

Air conditioner failure does not need to be a surprise when it happens. Take a few minutes now to think about whether you’ve noticed any of the signs listed above.  If so, have a professional give your air conditioner a thorough check-up so you have fair warning and can stop any major problems before they start.


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Last Updated: May 24, 2024