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Why Do Air Conditioners Wait Until Summer to Fail?

15 Apr 2021

Author: Jeff O'Hara

Until today, I was stumped for a blog topic about HVAC, and then my inspiration arrived in the form of a broken air conditioner on a hot Sunday afternoon. While Mrs. and I were making dinner, we noticed the AC was having a hard time keeping up with the thermostat’s set temperature. After doing all the things a diligent homeowner should do when their AC shuts down, like checking circuit breakers and messing with the thermostat, we called Nick’s Air Conditioning and Heating Services.

During the summer months in Houston, there is no more critical appliance in your home than your air conditioner. Our air conditioners take a tremendous beating during south Texas summers, and without proper maintenance and upkeep of filters, your HVAC system may only last half as long as it should. Having an annual heating and air conditioning system inspection and tune-up can help extend your HVAC system’s life and help keep your energy bills down.

Now, of course, it’s a “no-brainer” that air conditioners fail more during the summer months, as that is when they get the hardest use. In many Houston homes, our air conditioner barely gets a break during the winter months as temperatures in the 70s and 80s continue almost all year-round.

What Are the Most Common Summer Failures of an HVAC System?

1. Thermostats

Every home with a central air conditioning system will have a thermostat mounted on a wall, in an open, common area of the house. Older homes may have the vintage “single knob” thermostat, where new homes may be equipped with smart thermostats that are Wi-Fi enabled to allow you to control your AC and heating systems remotely via apps.

Like any device that becomes more technologically advanced, the more possibility there is for failures. Those old school, single-dial thermostats can last for decades, but over time their accuracy may drift, creating conditions that are either too warm or too cold in your home. Modern thermostats tend to have a lifespan of around ten years and replacing them regularly allows you to enjoy the conveniences of advanced smart thermostats.

2. Dirty Air Filters

Easily the most overlooked cause of air conditioner failures is the air filter. Every HVAC system and window mounted AC unit has some filter to keep dirt, dust, and other airborne irritants out of the home. Most HVAC system manufacturers recommend changing your air filters every three months, and failure to do this may end up in warranty claims being denied if your AC unit fails.

Changing your air conditioning system’s air filters is an inexpensive way to ensure the most extended life and most efficient operation possible.

3. Dirty Coils

As important as it is to have clean air filters in your air conditioning system, the coils that live in the outdoor AC unit must be kept clean too. Outdoor AC units draw air from outside, pulling it across the cooling coils before combining it with refrigerant and sending it to your vents. Grass, pollen, and dirt get sucked into your AC coils and collect on their surfaces, creating areas of the coil that don’t get cold, resulting in significantly reduced efficiency.

4. Low or Leaking Refrigerant

Warning signs of a low or leaking refrigerant issue are easy to recognize, in that your house feels warmer than usual, or it takes longer to cool your home. Lack of adequate refrigerant causes your AC to work a lot harder to keep the temperature you want. Low refrigerant levels can increase your monthly energy bill by as much as 15% and add years of premature wear and tear. Check the refrigerant line and cooling coils on the outdoor unit for frost and listen for a hissing sound.

Oh, our air conditioner turned out to be okay. It was putting itself into self-protection mode when the condenser coil froze up. Nick’s Air Conditioning and Heating technician that came out informed me that maybe 68 degrees is a little much to ask from my system on a 100-degree day.

Next time you’re facing a mid-summer air conditioning emergency of your own, call the experts at Nick’s Air Conditioning and Heating Services today. We’re on the way!

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