If you live in one of the warmer parts of the country, springtime may already be well into the cooling system for your household. In other areas, spring often brings relatively temperate weather, with a handful of days that may require a quick burst of air conditioning. There's no denying the appeal of comfortable weather, but infrequent air conditioning usage can often make problems harder to spot.
Fortunately, you don't have to wait for the depths of summer to discover that something may be amiss with your air conditioner. Recognizing problems earlier in the season can allow you to address them before your system becomes a daily necessity. Watch for these three common springtime AC issues to avoid a costly emergency repair call and hot summer days without AC.
1. Small Refrigerant Leaks
Your AC can't function unless charged with the correct amount of refrigerant. Refrigerant pressure levels allow your air conditioner to move heat between the evaporator and condenser coils, keeping your home cool. While large refrigerant leaks will quickly stop your system from working, small leaks can create more subtle symptoms.
Since lower refrigerant pressure results in a lower temperature at the evaporator coils, a frozen coil is a common symptom of low refrigerant. However, it can take a while for an evaporator to freeze, and it may not be noticeable when your system is only running briefly in the spring. If you do notice your system shutting off too quickly, you may want to contact an HVAC tech before warmer temps arrive.
2. Hard Starting
Your air conditioner's compressor is a bit like the engine in your car. This mechanical device is crucial to move refrigerant throughout the system, but it typically needs some help to get started. Just like your car relies on its starter motor to turn over, your AC's compressor relies on a capacitor to provide the higher current necessary to start pumping.
It's not uncommon for air conditioners to be a little noisy when the compressor runs, but pay attention to what happens when your compressor first turns on. If it appears to be struggling or takes too long to start, that may be a warning sign of a faulty capacitor or another, more serious problem. In either case, it's best to have an expert diagnose the problem while the outside temperatures are still relatively cool.
3. Damaged Condenser Coils
The outdoor portion of your air conditioner is known as the condenser, and its most prominent feature will typically be large, wrap-around coils. These coils allow your air conditioner to dissipate heat from your home into the surrounding environment, and they're also crucial to allowing the system to run efficiently. Dents or damage can reduce system efficiency or cause your AC to stop working.
Unfortunately, winter can be a rough time for your outdoor unit, so it's worth inspecting the coils for any noticeable signs of damage. Many dented or damaged coils may affect your unit's ability to keep your home cool. An ac system repair professional can inspect the unit, determine if the damaged coils are a severe problem, and potentially clean and repair the condenser to restore some efficiency.