Is My Air Conditioner Not Cooling or Is It Just Hot?

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Struggling with air conditioner not cooling in a hot room
Dealing with an air conditioner not cooling efficiently can be frustrating, especially during hot weather.

With major heat waves we’ve been having, it’s important to understand what your air conditioning system can handle. This insight can help you get ready and avoid unnecessary service calls. A frequent question we encounter at Aaron Services is, “Is my air conditioner not cooling, or is it just really hot?” Here’s how to figure that out and ensure your home stays cool without overtaxing your AC.

Getting Ready for the Heat Wave

As temperatures soar, many homeowners expect their air conditioners to cool their homes quickly. We often respond to air conditioning repair requests only to find that the air conditioner is working, it’s just not possible to cool the home more with the homeowner’s current set up. Understanding how your AC works can help you set realistic expectations and avoid unnecessary stress. Let’s dive into the factors that impact your AC’s cooling efficiency and how to keep your entire home comfortable.

Factors Affecting Cooling Time

Size and Layout of the Home

The size and layout of your home significantly impact how long it takes to cool down. Larger homes or those with multiple levels need more time to reach the desired temperature compared to smaller, single-story homes. If your AC seems slow in cooling your home, it might just be due to the overall volume and airflow dynamics. Using ceiling fans and closing off unused rooms can help speed up the cooling process.

Source of Cool Air

The efficiency of cooling also depends on the source of the cool air. Air that travels through extensive ductwork may lose some of its cooling power before reaching different areas of your home. Sometimes we see homes where a basement or other area has been finished, but an additional system was not added to carry the increased HVAC load. The problems that arise from this effectively undersized system will be more significant during periods of extreme temperatures.

Mini splits or zoned systems, which deliver direct cooling to specific areas, are much more efficient and reduce the overall time needed to cool your home. These systems can keep the whole home cooler, while more significantly cooling the room you are in. For example, maybe you want your whole home at 73 degrees during the day, but the home office you work from at 70. A mini split system with multiple heads can customize your heating and cooling this way.

Initial and Outdoor Temperature

The starting temperature inside your home and the temperature outside play crucial roles in cooling time. If it seems that your air conditioner is not cooling, start by comparing the outside air temp to your indoor temperature. Air conditioners typically cool air to about 20 degrees lower than the outdoor temperature. For instance, if it’s 90°F outside, your AC can cool your home down to approximately 70°F. Higher initial indoor temperatures will take longer to reduce to a comfortable level. Once that lower threshold is met, further cooling might not be achievable with air conditioning alone.

Typical Cooling Rate

Generally, you can expect an air conditioner to cool your home at a rate of about 1 degree per hour, up to a maximum of 20 degrees cooler than the outdoor temperature. Understanding this limitation helps you set realistic expectations and ensures you’re not overworking your air conditioner with unrealistic temperature goals. During particularly hot periods, your AC might be working well even if it only cools to 75 or 80 degrees.

Is Your Air Conditioner Not Cooling?

Patience Can Save You Money

Thermostat showing incorrect temperature due to air conditioner not cooling
An air conditioner not cooling properly can result in a thermostat displaying higher temperatures than set, indicating potential system issues.

Knowing how long your AC might take to cool your home helps in deciding whether to wait or call a repair technician. If your AC is performing within these parameters but still takes longer, it could indicate an underlying issue needing professional attention. Conversely, if it’s 100 degrees outside and your home won’t cool below 80 degrees, you might avoid a service call by knowing your air conditioner is working properly – it’s just extremely hot outside!

To maximize your air conditioner’s efficiency, make sure that it is well-maintained and appropriately sized for your home. Regular maintenance, such as cleaning or replacing filters and checking refrigerant levels, is essential for optimal cooling performance. An HVAC technician can complete a thorough system inspection and cleaning so that you get the most from your AC. If your system is older, consider upgrading, as newer models can cool more efficiently.

Importance of Gradual Temperature Adjustments

Avoiding High Indoor Temperatures

Some homeowners try to save on energy bills by turning their thermostat up when they leave for work or school and then turning it down significantly when they return. Allowing your home to become very hot during the day means your air conditioner will have to work much harder and longer to cool it down. This not only makes you uncomfortable while waiting for the temperature to drop but also places significant strain on your AC unit. Additionally, high indoor temperatures can be detrimental to hardwood floors and can cause mold in bathrooms left hot and wet from morning showers.

Reducing Strain on the AC Unit

Drastically lowering the thermostat can overwork your air conditioner. This can lead to potential issues like the unit freezing up or breaking down. Gradual temperature adjustments ensure smoother operation, reduce the risk of overworking the system, and extend the lifespan of your air conditioner.

Gradual temperature changes help maintain a consistent and comfortable indoor environment without overloading your system. Keeping your home at a relatively stable temperature prevents sudden, drastic cooling demands that can stress your AC.

By understanding these factors and best practices, you can ensure your air conditioning system runs efficiently, keeps you comfortable, and lasts longer. If your unit still isn’t cooling as expected, even after considering these factors, don’t hesitate to call an HVAC professional to get things cool quickly. Stay cool and prepared this summer!