Why Is My Air Conditioner Running but Not Cooling the House?

Summer 2020 has been a hot one so far. The temperatures in Naperville, Aurora, Oswego, Plainfield and Lisle are usually around the low-to-mid 80s. This year we’ve been firmly in the 90s, placing July 2020 in the area’s top 10 warmest on record.

That means our air conditioners are busy. Ideally, they’re working properly for us, because temps in the 90s with high humidity can make a home pretty uncomfortable fast.

But what do we do if the air conditioner is running but not cooling the house? During days like these, it doesn’t take long to figure out something’s not right, and we don’t want it to stay that way for long.

In this discussion, we’ll talk about steps you yourself can take if your air conditioner is running but not cooling the house. We’ll also consider what would require support from your HVAC professional. So let’s jump in!

AC not cooling

AC Running but Not Cooling: What You Can Do

As just an example, let’s say you’ve set the thermostat to 72 but the room temperature is still 75 no matter how long you run the AC. To troubleshoot on your own, here are a few things to check.

Thermostat switch. Ensure the fan setting is ON. This will keep the air circulating and pull heat from the ceiling to create a better air balance and make air filtration more effective. Also periodically check that the thermostat’s batteries are not low; dying batteries can be a sneaky culprit in a system that doesn’t seem to be working.

Air filter. A clogged or dirty filter prevents proper airflow, which hinders your AC system’s ability to cool the air. It can also block airflow by causing ice to form on the evaporator coil, the part that cools the air. Inspect the filter once a month and plan to replace it at least every three months.

Outdoor unit. After a long Illinois winter, a lot of dirt and debris may have gathered around the condenser and inside the condenser coils. The condenser is the outside unit that discharges heat from your home after the inside unit (the evaporator) absorbs it. Weeds often grow around the condenser as well. Be sure the unit is clear of anything that can prevent it from releasing heat as it should. Also consider rinsing it with a hose; use a gentle stream to protect the delicate condenser fins, which let airflow cool the refrigerant.

If the condenser coils are dirty, the best remedy is to have them cleaned by your HVAC professional.

Circuit breaker. Many air conditioners have two circuit breakers: one for the inside unit and one for the outside. If the breaker for the outdoor unit is tripped, the indoor one will continue blowing air into your house, but it will be warm. Switch a tripped breaker back on; however, if it trips again, don’t reset it again. You could have a larger electrical problem that should be inspected by a professional.

AC Running but Not Cooling: When to Call in a Pro

If you’ve tried to troubleshoot the issue yourself and the AC still runs without cooling, the system may have a deeper problem that needs professional analysis.

Here are a few common items that can cause an air conditioner to run but not cool your house in Naperville, Aurora, Oswego, Plainfield or Lisle: 

Leaking refrigerant. The refrigerant is the liquid/gas that absorbs the heat from the air in your home. Refrigerant runs on a closed loop, so if your system is low on refrigerant, it often means it has a leak. Some visible signs of low refrigerant include a bubbling or hissing noise and ice build-up on the line and the condenser. Topping off the refrigerant without addressing a leak will not fix the problem. An HVAC can inspect and repair a leak and restore the refrigerant to the proper level for cooling your house.

Failing compressor. The compressor circulates your system’s refrigerant. If it isn’t pumping the refrigerant correctly, your air conditioner will run but not cool. Your HVAC professional can diagnose and replace a malfunctioning compressor. Because a compressor is a very expensive part, your HVAC professional can also advise you if a system replacement would make more financial sense.

Faulty ducts. If ductwork is old or weathered, it can drag hot air from the attic into the airflow. Compromised ducts can also have seams or cracks that release cooled air. An HVAC professional can inspect and seal your ducts so they serve your cooling system correctly.

Incorrect unit size. In some cases, a homeowner may not realize that an air conditioner that was purchased is not big enough for cooling the home’s square footage, as well as for cooling in a particular regional climate. Your HVAC professional will be able to calculate if your AC is the right size to keep you properly cool.

Here for Answers and Service

Having AC that is running but not cooling your house can be a great inconvenience, especially during a summer like this one. The specialists at Beery Heating and Cooling are always glad to address any questions or concerns you might have about your AC in Naperville, Aurora, Oswego, Plainfield or Lisle. Just give us a call at (630) 585-6444 to speak with a helpful technician.

We are available for AC solutions and service throughout the area, including Yorkville, Batavia, Plano, Geneva, Montgomery and Bolingbrook.