Canadian Contractor


Guide for Air Conditioner Repair – Costs, Troubleshooting Tips and FAQs

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A properly functioning air conditioner is essential for indoor comfort. That is why most homeowners will call in a technician to fix any issue as soon as possible. As a new technician, you may not have as much experience in AC repairs. The good news, however, is that there is still time to learn. With the help of AirMakers, professional HVAC contractor in Toronto, we prepared a short list of most coming issues, problems and questions that you might come across in your daily work routine.

When it comes to AC systems, a lot of work involves regular maintenance, annual inspections, tune-ups, and tackling repairs. If you are not familiar with AC repairs or cooling systems, you may have a lot of questions about maintenance and common problems. This guide will help you become a better technician and troubleshoot common AC issues.

Common AC Problems

  • 1. Dirty filter

Air conditioner filters need to be changed at least once every 1 to 3 months. This is because when they are dirty, filters can reduce air quality and affect efficiency and cooling capabilities. Dirty filters can also cause the AC system to break down faster.

  • 2. Lack of maintenance

Cooling systems don’t come cheap. To prolong its life and avoid expensive repairs, most homeowners get their units inspected and tuned up annually. Becoming a certified HVAC technician will help you offer these services.

  • 3. The unit does not cool

There are many issues that can cause the AC not to cool properly. The key ones are improper thermostat settings, dirty filters, and the size of the AC.

  • 4. Improperly sized AC unit

An important task when purchasing an AC unit is ensuring it is the right size for a home. If it is too small, it will end up overworking to maintain the desired temperatures. On the other hand, if the unit is too big, it will end up cycling too often and increase the levels of indoor humidity.

  • 5. Refrigerant leak

An air conditioner relies on a refrigerant to cool. Refrigerants can leak if there are cracks or holes in the coil. When it leaks, the AC will start causing fluctuating temperatures. You may also notice a hissing noise that comes from the unit. Ice on the refrigerant line or coil is also a sign of a leak.

  • 6. Electrical problems

An AC unit has various electrical components, which include contactors and capacitors. If any of these components are either worn out or defective, the system will fail. It is important to check these components when inspecting or repairing an AC unit.

  • 7. Improper installation

Proper AC unit installation is very important. Professional installation requires that the right size of AC unit be installed and pressure be tested. All the components must also be connected properly. Being a certified HVAC technician will help you become a highly sought-after technician when it comes to the installation of an HVAC unit.

  • 8. Thermostat problems

When it is defective, a thermostat can cause issues with cooling and heating cycles. The wrong settings on the thermostat may also mean the right temperatures will not be achieved. When fixing an AC, the first thing you should check as a technician is the thermostat settings. You have to ensure they are correctly calibrated and make sure the outside cold and heat sources don’t influence it.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I recommend repairs, and when should the air conditioner be replaced?

On average, air conditioners have a lifespan of 12 to 15 years. If a unit is older than 10 years and requires major repairs, you can recommend a client to have it replaced. A new unit is energy-efficient, covered under warranty, and the homeowner can qualify for rebates.

What causes an air conditioner not to run at all?

In most cases, the unit will fail to run because there is an electrical problem causing the unit not to get power. A fuse might be blown, or a circuit breaker may be tripped. Replacing the fuse or resetting the breaker will fix the problem. If you feel that electrical issue is out of your skill range do not hesitate to advise you client to contact licensed electrician.

How do I unclog the drain line?

You need to find the access point then vacuum out the clog. The line can be flushed using warm water and soap. Warm water and vinegar also works. Leave the water in for at least 30 minutes.

What causes an air conditioner to leak?

The main cause of leaks is a blockage in the drain line. When the line is clogged, water may start to back up the drain line, which will eventually leak from the unit. A refrigerant leak can also cause the unit to leak. Refrigerant leaks occur when there are holes or cracks in the coil. This causes ice to build up on the coil. When the unit is shut off, the ice will melt and water will start dripping.

How are the coils and fins cleaned?

You should start by turning off the unit then use a garden hose to rinse the outdoor coil and the coil fins. This will remove dirt, dust, grass, leaves, and other debris. Never use power washers to clean the coils and fins. You can clean the coil and fins once a year.

How do I melt a frozen coil?

The coil may freeze when it is dirty or when there is a refrigerant leak. You can melt the ice by cranking up the thermostat then setting Fan-Only for a few hours until the ice melts. If freezing coils is a recurring issue, it may be because the AC unit is overpowered. This is a common issue when the components are not sized correctly.

How do I diagnose common AC problems?

  • The first place to start is at the thermostat. Check to make sure the right temperatures have been set.
  • Cleaning the interior to get rid of dust and dirt that has built up will also help.
  • You should ensure the unit is getting enough power by ensuring the fuse has not been blown, and the circuit breaker is not tripped.
  • Clean the filters, and if they have not been changed for more than 3 months, you should have them changed.
  • Ensuring nothing is blocking the vents and there are no visible leaks in the ductwork.
  • Make sure there is no debris on the outdoor unit and no trees, weeds, or other materials are blocking the flow of air.
  • Make sure the access panel has been attached properly; otherwise, the safety switch will be engaged and keep the unit from operating.

What makes an air conditioner not to cool properly?

Many things can cause this issue. The main common ones are obstructions in the vents, dirty air filters, closed registers, a faulty thermostat, dirty coil, and bad thermostat setting. If the problem has always been there, the unit may be too small for the home it is meant to cool.

What is involved in an annual AC tune-up?

Annual professional AC maintenance includes:

  • Searching for leaks
  • Checking the refrigerant charge
  • Testing electrical components
  • Lubricating moving parts
  • Clearing the drain line
  • Cleaning as well as tweaking the blower and motor
  • Recalibrating the thermostat
  • Cleaning the condensing unit and coils

How do I change the air conditioner filter?

The first step is to locate the filter. This is usually located in the air return vent or on the indoor unit. Remove the grille from the air return or the access panel from the front unit — slide out the old filter. Clean the filter or buy a new one. Slide the cleaned or new filter back into place using the arrows for guidance. Replace the access panel or grille.

What regular maintenance is required when keeping the air conditioner in the best shape?

Cleaning and changing the filters regularly is the most important thing to do when servicing an AC unit. The unit also needs to be cleaned once annually. This means cleaning the drain line, coils, coil fins and removing debris from the outdoor unit.

Cost of Air Conditioner Repairs

As an HVAC technician, you should be able to tell your clients how much it will roughly cost them to replace certain parts of their air conditioner. The average cost of simpler air conditioner repairs ranges from $75 to $590. This will include tackling repairs on the drain line, control board, and fusses. For the more expensive components such as refrigerant, condensate pump, fan motor, and drain pans, your client can expect to spend between $240 and $750.

The most expensive air conditioner repairs include replacing such parts as the condenser coil, fan motor, and compressor. The cost of these repairs can range from $400 to $2,900 or even more. It is, however, important to remember that there are several factors that impact the cost of repairs. The key factors are the age of the AC unit, amount of labour required, size and efficiency of the unit, whether regular maintenance was being done, and the extent of the damage.

Basic Tools You Will Need for Air Conditioner Repair and Maintenance

  • Garden hose for cleaning the outdoor unit
  • New fuses if a fuse has been blown
  • Vacuum for removing clogs from the drain line
  • New air filters when replacing the old ones
  • Screwdriver to open access panels
  • Soap and water or vinegar and water solutions for cleaning drain lines

Safety Tips for Air Conditioner Repair and Maintenance

  • Always start by unplugging the unit before tackling any repair or maintenance work
  • Check power cords for wear and ensure they are not heating up
  • Keep the area around the outdoor and indoor units free of flammable items and debris
  • If you suspect a refrigerant leak or any other major problem, you should shut it down immediately and fix the problem
  • Never power the air conditioner unit using an extension cord
  • Use replacement parts that are designed for the make and model of the AC unit you are working on
  • Read the owner’s manual to get instructions on safety, maintenance, and repairs


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