Is your air conditioner overheating? If so, there are several reasons this could be the case. Fixing an overheating AC should be a priority because it can lead to other serious problems and expensive repairs. So today, the team at Georgia Air Cooling & Heating is here with this guide on how to handle your air conditioner overheating.
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What Happens When Your AC Overheats?
When air conditioners work too hard for too long, their internal temperature will rise. Generally, air conditioners have venting systems that release excess heat so they don’t overheat. Systems that can’t vent heat property will overheat.
As your AC gets hotter, it runs the risk of causing a breakdown or tripping your circuit breaker. More specifically, overheating can damage one of the following components:
- Compressor. The compressor is responsible for pumping refrigerant to the coils to produce cold air. When the compressor is broken, your AC will only be able to create hot air.
- Capacitor. Air conditioners use capacitors to power AC components. Too much heat can cause capacitors to short circuit. Electric capacitors can also overheat due to power surges during outages.
- Fan motor. The fan motor controls the fan that blows excess heat out of your home through the outdoor unit. Fan motors can overheat when vents or air filters are blocked, preventing heat from escaping.
All of these parts are critical for your AC working, so damage to one of them can affect the entire system. As such, it’s crucial you learn the signs of an overheating air conditioner and take steps to solve the problem quickly.
How to Tell If Your AC Is Overheating
Your AC overheating usually isn’t visual, so you have to rely on other kinds of cues to diagnose an overheating air conditioner. One of the most common signs of an overheating AC is a slight burning or smoky smell coming from the vents. You might also hear strange buzzing or rattling coming from the main body of the AC unit.
Another way to tell your AC is overheating is from touch. Hold your hand near the exterior of the unit to feel for heat. If the air surrounding the AC is too hot to touch, it’s a good sign that your AC is overheating and needs service.
Sometimes, your AC might overheat, and performance starts to suffer. Your AC might continue to run, but it will have trouble producing enough cold air. An overheating AC can also cause your monthly electricity bills to spike even if your usage stays the same. Other times, an overheating AC can trip your circuit breaker, cutting off power to your air conditioner system.
Causes of AC Overheating
If your AC is overheating, diagnosing and fixing the issue should be the first thing you do. Below are some of the most common reasons ACs overheat and how to fix them.
Clogged Air Filters
The single most common cause of an air conditioner overheating is a clogged air filter. ACs have filters that capture dust, dander, pollen, and other particles to remove them from the air. When air filters get clogged with dust, it restricts the airflow, causing your system to work harder and draw more electricity. A dirty air filter also negatively affects indoor air quality, increasing the risk of triggering allergies and respiratory conditions.
The solution to this problem is simple: regularly change your air filters. We recommend changing your air filters at least once every six months. If you live in an area with a large amount of dust or moisture, change the air filters every three months instead.
Most residential air filters have a MERV rating between 10 and 13. If your air filters get clogged easily, you could try switching to a filter with a lower MERV rating. Lower MERV ratings will increase airflow because the filter is not as dense, but indoor air quality might take a hit.
Another reason for an overheating air conditioner is dirty evaporator coils or condenser coils. ACs use these coils to extract heat from the air and move it outside your home. Dirt and grime on the outside of these coils minimize the surface area the air makes contact with, making it harder to produce cold air as effectively. The result is your AC has to work double time to meet set temperatures on the thermostat.
The increased load on your system runs the risk of overheating, especially if you have an older air conditioner that is nearing the end of its lifespan. Cleaning your coils will keep them clean, allowing them to do their job without putting unnecessary stress on your system.
Fortunately, you can clean coils on your own using a soft-bristle brush and regular dish detergent mixed with water. When cleaning coils, ensure you do not scratch or damage the fins, as it could affect coil functioning. Let the coils dry completely before you turn the air conditioner back on.
Low Coolant Levels
Another reason for an air conditioner overheating is low coolant levels. Air conditioners use coolant fluid to extract heat from the air and remove it outside of your house. Heat levels can get too high when coolant is low because the system can’t remove it fast enough. The excess heat can damage your compressor and cause coolant leaks.
Coolant fluid exists in a separate sealed system, and most air conditioners are not designed to need coolant replacement or top-offs. If your coolant levels are low, it means there is a leak somewhere in your system. You can tell you have a coolant leak from the semi-sweet smell of coolant fluid.
Lack of Maintenance
Sometimes, your system can overheat due to general wear and tear on the components. The older your system gets, the less efficient it is and the harder it has to work. This naturally produces more heat, so a worn-down system is more likely to overheat. Getting regular maintenance keeps your system in its best condition so it’s less likely to overheat.
We recommend that you get professional maintenance on your air conditioning system at least once every 12 months — ideally every six months. Maintenance needs will differ depending on the kind of air conditioner you have and the length of time since your last appointment. However, most maintenance appointments will include the following:
- Changing air filters
- Inspecting electrical components
- Flushing drain lines
- Testing thermostats
- Cleaning coils
- Inspecting gas burners
- Cleaning ductwork
The more you stick to a periodic maintenance schedule, the less likely your air conditioner is to overheat. Moreover, regular professional checkups will make your system run longer, letting you get the most out of the money you spent on the equipment.
AC Is the Wrong Size
Air conditioner size plays a crucial role in heating efficiency. If the unit is too small for your home, it has to pull more power to reach desired temperatures, and the excess strain can cause the system to overheat. Additionally, your system won’t even be able to cool your home properly.
An air conditioner’s size depends on how many BTUs it produces. You can estimate the size of the air conditioner you need by multiplying 20 BTU for every square foot of your living space. For instance, if your home is 1,500 square feet, you should look for an air conditioner with at least a 30,000 BTU capacity.
One last thing that can overheat your system is if your outdoor unit is under the sun without any shade. Georgia summers can get extremely hot, and the sun beating down on your outdoor AC unit can cause it to overheat, even if everything else is working properly.
When planning your AC unit outside, you should incorporate some kind of shade. The sun is the hottest from about noon to five PM, so it needs a way to stay cool during those times. Trees and vegetation can provide the necessary shade, but you need to regularly prune them to keep plant matter from clogging the vent.
Frequent Overheating Can Mean It’s Time for Replacement
If you find your AC frequently overheating despite regularly changing filters and getting regular maintenance, then your system might need replacing. The typical air conditioner lasts about 15 to 20 years on average. So, if your AC is old and overheating all the time, consider calling an expert to talk about an energy-efficient replacement.
#1 Heating & Cooling Services in Georgia
Georgia Air Cooling & Heating is proud to offer the best professional HVAC services in Richmond Hill and the surrounding areas. Our handpicked team of technicians has the skills and know-how to assist with any HVAC project you send our way. Our goal is to exceed our customers’ expectations on every job! If your AC can’t keep up with the heat or you find your air conditioner overheating, reach out to the experts at Georgia Air Cooling & Heating at (912) 513-3741 or fill out a contact form online!