DIY Air Conditioner Repair

A broken AC unit can cause many problems, including adding to a high monthly electric bill.

It is most likely to break during the hot months, when it has to work the hardest: this means you could be forced to spend days in a hot, uncomfortable home. Even worse, because this is when AC units are most likely to break, it could take an AC repair person much longer to get to you than they would during other months of the year. On top of all that, there is the fact that AC repair can cost hundreds of dollars. Simply put, a broken AC is aggravating, potentially dangerous and it is not a situation that will go away without some effort. It may need to be fixed by a repair person, but there is a good chance you yourself might be able to fix it yourself. In this article, you will learn some of the DIY hacks you can use to fix your AC unit.

Checking Your Air Conditioning Unit for Simple Problems

Luckily, some AC problems require little in the way of technical knowledge. Here are a few of the steps you can take to check for the simple maintenance issues:

  • Replace the batteries for your thermostat. This device controls the temperature regulation of the unit, so if its batteries have drained, the unit will not have any input telling it to regulate temperatures.
  • Open your circuit breaker panel. Especially during the hottest months, an AC may be drawing so much power that it turns off its breaker, meaning you simply need to turn the breaker back on.
  • Change your air filter. An air filter is designed to keep dirt out of your AC unit, allowing it to continue operating, so if your filter has not been changed in a month, this could be causing undue stress on your unit.
  • Melt any ice that has formed inside your unit by raising the thermometer’s temperature so that it is significantly hotter than your home’s current temperature. Whether it is because the refrigerant is running low or its current of air is not flowing properly, an AC unit may get too cold. Once the ice has melted it should work properly again, but you will need to bring in an AC repairman to determine the cause of the ice.
  • Examine your air ducts to see if they have any holes. These holes can cause your system to overwork itself, so you want to cover any of the holes that you find with tape.

If the above solutions do not work, the chances are high that you will need to replace some part of your AC unit. This can seem intimidating, and there are certainly some parts of an AC unit that you should not attempt to replace by yourself. However, the two AC parts that are most likely to break are also the ones that are the easiest to replace. They are:

  • The Capacitor
  • The Contactor

Replacing the Capacitor

The capacitor is the part of the air conditioner that causes the AC’s motor to start. It does this by giving a burst of energy to the motor. To determine whether or not the problem is with your AC’s capacitor, find a stick that is thin enough to fit into the grille of your AC’s fan, while also being lengthy enough to reach the blade. Use the stick to force the blade into motion. If this lets your AC turn on, your capacitor is not properly doing its job.

Capacitors generally cost $35-$60, so if your capacitor is the problem, it is luckily cheap to fix. However, it is important to keep in mind that you will be dealing with electricity, so you need to be very careful to not get electrocuted. If at any point you are unsure about your course of action, it is worth calling a professional: the cost of an AC repairman is nothing compared to the cost of medical bills if you get electrocuted. A voltage detector is useful when replacing an AC part, as it allows you to determine if you have properly turned off all power to the component you need to touch.

Your first step is to go to your circuit breaker box and shut down the AC’s power. Then, remove the panel that is housing the capacitor. Because the capacitor has to send bursts of energy, it stores electricity. That makes this the most dangerous part of the task. Take your screwdriver and touch it to both of the capacitor leads, making sure not to touch any of the metal as you do so. The leads are two prongs that you will find at the top of the capacitor, and by touching both of them with your screwdriver, you should cause them to lose their charge after a few seconds.

Once this is done, unscrew the capacitor from the unit. Using your phone to take a picture of the wiring, remove the wires from the capacitor. After that, you can connect the wires to the new capacitor and screw it into your unit.

Replacing the Contactor

The process of replacing a contractor is similar to the process of replacing a capacitor. This makes sense, as their functions are similar. Whereas the capacitor is responsible for turning on the AC’s motor, the contactor provides power to the compressor. The compressor regulates the refrigerant, which in turn makes the air that the fan blows into your home cold. This process makes the contactor an essential part of the AC.

To replace it, go to your circuit breaker box and turn off all power that is being directed to your AC unit. Unscrew the AC panel and take it off. The hardest part is finding the capacitor, which is a small black cube with wires running out of it. Take a picture of it, so you understand where the wires are supposed to go. You will need to take the wires off the contactor, and then unscrew it. Using the picture you took with your phone, you can then screw the new contactor in and hook it up to the wires.

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