Residential Air Conditioning Repair: Everything You Need to Know as an Indianapolis Homeowner

By: Homesense  |  December 21, 2018

First, let’s review how a standard air conditioning unit works…

How Your AC Components Work

No matter the size or efficiency rating every AC unit consists of the same essential components:

  1. CONDENSER: The outdoor portion of your AC unit and heat pump. It releases and collects heat, depending on the setting and time of year.
  2. COMPRESSOR: Part of the condenser, the compressor pumps refrigerant throughout your system to cool your home.
  3. EVAPORATOR COILS: These coils are either attached to your furnace or inside the air handler, absorbing heat from the air inside your home.
  4. REFRIGERANT: The chemical used to produce a cooling effect on airflow throughout your home.
  5. DUCTWORK: Made of either metal or synthetic material, the ducts transport air throughout your home.

During proper operation, warm air flows over the refrigerant in the coils. This causes the refrigerant to turn into gas. This gas travels through the compressor and applies pressure to increase the temperature of the gas significantly. Coils located within the condenser draw wasted heat from this process and send it out of the system. This cools the refrigerant back into a liquid and chills the air. Then, the cool air travels through your ductwork and your home.

Life Expectancy of an Air Conditioning Unit

One of the most frequently asked questions customers ask is, “how long will this last?” Our answer is it completely depends on a few factors.

On average, a full central HVAC system can last anywhere between 10 to 25 years. Your usage, the type of equipment and maintenance affect the ultimate life expectancy. Most importantly, proper maintenance plays a huge role in prolonging the life of your air conditioner.

Several factors may reduce the lifespan of your air conditioning unit, including:

  • Poor maintenance practices
  • Poor quality or defective components
  • Over or under-sizing the system for the residence or property
  • Improper installation
  • Improper usage, such as heating or cooling with windows and doors open
  • Unusually high usage

The Need for Preventative Maintenance

At Homesense, we strongly believe in prevention. While your system still functions properly, commit to regular maintenance to prolong the life of your HVAC system. Three key maintenance checks to add to your calendar are:

Possible Causes of a Broken Air Conditioner

Over the years, we have seen many reasons for air conditioning systems to break down or operate poorly. Here are some of the primary issues which cause malfunctions for air conditioners:

OLD FILTER 

Outdated air filters easily become clogged and restrict airflow throughout your entire unit. This decreases the system’s ability to cool the air inside your home. We highly recommend you clean or change your air filters at least four times a year (use the seasons as a reminder), or even better, once a month.

LOW REFRIGERANT 

Refrigerant is what your air conditioner uses to remove heat and humidity from the air in your home. Your system can sometimes develop leaks in the refrigerant lines, meaning insufficient refrigerant circulates through the system to properly cool the air. There are also some potential warning signs which indicate you may be leaking R22 or R410A refrigerant. For example, your A/C may blow lukewarm or hot air. You may hear a hiss or bubbling noise coming from a leak in your refrigerant line.

Additionally, your refrigerant line may have ice on it. To test for leaks and diagnose the problem, there are three leak tests to consider: (1) Electronic Leak Detector Test; (2) Nitrogen Leak Detector Test and Bubble Test; and (3) Dye Test. Unfortunately, fixing a low refrigerant problem isn’t just replacing the refrigerant. To fully remedy the issue, an HVAC repair technician needs to find the leaks and repair the holes in the lines. This is often a time-consuming process, especially when there are multiple leaks.

BLOWN CAPACITOR

The capacitor stores energy and enables currents to pass through so your system can turn on and off when desired. Without a properly functioning capacitor, your entire HVAC unit cannot turn on. Capacitor failure is a more common issue, and can usually be fixed for under $300.

COMPRESSOR FAILURE

When dust, grime and dirt build up on your condenser coil, the air conditioner can’t expel enough heat from the system. Consequently, it forces your system to constantly run in an effort to cool your space. Many times it overheats your compressor and causes it ultimately to fail. A compressor failure often leads to a recommendation to replace. This is probably the biggest and most expensive part in your air conditioner or heat pump, and the repair is labor intensive.

BLOCKED AIRFLOW

There are several reasons why your air conditioner may experience blocked airflow:
• Leaky Air Ducts. This is the most common cause of bad airflow. It allows air to escape and your HVAC unit works less efficiently.
• Clogged Air Conditioner Coil. Dust builds up on your air conditioner coil. This reduces the amount of airflow your furnace distributes.
• Dirty Fan Blower. When dust builds up on the fan blower it reduces its efficiency. This prevents proper air distribution throughout your home.
• Broken Air Ducts. Disconnected or crushed air ducts also cause bad airflow because air cannot properly circulate throughout your home.
• Incorrectly-Sized Heating and Cooling System. The size of your air conditioning system should be determined prior to installation. If the system is undersized or oversized, you may experience airflow issues. You may also experience short cycling and strain on your equipment. 

FROZEN AIR CONDITIONING

Your evaporator coil, located inside the blower cabinet, may freeze and prevent your air conditioner from working properly. This coil sucks hot air from inside your home and moves it outside. If your refrigerant levels are low, the evaporator coil can’t gather enough hot air to cool your house. Over time, moisture collects around the coil and freezes. This prevents refrigerant from flowing freely throughout your system. Sadly, homeowners cannot do much to repair a frozen air conditioning unit. We strongly recommend turning your AC unit off, and calling an HVAC professional to remedy the problem.

How To Do Your Own Air Conditioning Repair – DIY Tips

Not all issues with your air conditioner require a service technician to come out to your home for an inspection.

Things to Check on Your Air Conditioner Before you Call a Pro

We suggest checking the following to see if you can make any of your own repairs:

  1. BREAKER OR FUSE. If your AC isn’t turning on at all, it could mean that you have blown a circuit breaker or fuse. First, make sure your AC is receiving power from your electrical panel. Second, reset the circuit breaker. Third, replace your fuse.
  2. THERMOSTAT SETTING: You may experience issues with an improperly set or faulty thermostat. Check the settings to make sure the thermostat reads “cool” when you want to the A/C turned on, instead of “off” or “heat.”
  3. CONDENSATION SENSOR: There’s a sensor on your condensation tray that will turn your A/C unit off when there is an overflow of water being collected. Check this tray to see if it’s full, and if so, empty it and see if your unit turns back on.
  4. BLOWER DOOR ON AIR HANDLER: Check your air handler to make sure the blower door is securely closed. Otherwise, your A/C unit won’t turn on.
  5. BLOCKED CONDENSER: Check to see if your condenser is blocked by weeds, grass or other airborne debris. If it is, remove the blockage and clean the condenser.
  6. CHANGE FILTER: Pull out your air filter to see if it needs to be replaced. We strongly recommend cleaning or changing your filters at least four times a year (when the seasons change) or, better yet, once a month.
  7. REGISTER DAMPERS: If your A/C is turned on but not cooling the air, check your register dampers on the vents in each room to make sure they are set to the open position.

How to Stay Cool While Waiting for A/C Technician

If — after checking all these items — your system still needs repairs, here are several ways you can stay cool while waiting for an HVAC technician to arrive at your home:

  1. COVER WINDOWS: Close your curtains, turn down the blinds and pull down your shades. Keeping heat from the sun out during this time is the easiest way to keep your house as cool as possible. Once the sun goes down, open your windows and let the warm air out and cool night air in.
  2. CHANGE CEILING FAN ROTATION: Make sure your ceiling fan rotates counterclockwise during warmer months. This particular rotation pulls warm air up toward the ceiling. Most fans should have a switch on the side that allows you to reverse the blade direction.
  3. TURN LIGHTS OFF: Keep as many lights off as possible during the day. If you need lights on, keep in mind that LED and CFL light bulbs generate the least amount of heat, while incandescent bulbs create the most.
  4. COOK DIFFERENTLY: While waiting on repairs to be made, reconsider using your stove or oven as they generate a large amount of heat in your home. Consider eating leftovers or preparing salads or picking up prepared foods from the grocery store.
  5. INVEST IN DEHUMIDIFIER: Humidity levels are high in Indiana, and a dehumidifier will keep the air inside your home dry. Investing in a dehumidifier can be particularly important in the rooms where your family spends the most amount of time, increasing comfort levels without increasing air conditioning.
  6. SLEEP SMARTER, SLEEP BETTER: Choose cotton sheets and wear cotton pajamas. Also, take a cold shower or dip your feet into cold water before going to bed, and unplug electronics to reduce the total heat circulating throughout your room.

The Air Conditioner Repair Process

While many HVAC companies focus on profit, we incentivize our technicians to repair existing equipment instead of trying to sell new equipment for no reason. Similarly, we don’t set mandatory sales quotes for our technicians. Selling you a new HVAC unit isn’t our goal. Our goal is to fix your air conditioner properly — the first time — so you can avoid issues in the future.

What You Can Expect From Homesense

When you call Homesense Heating and Cooling, you can expect friendly customer service by our EPA or North American Technician Excellence (NATE) Certified Technicians, who are all capable of fixing most heating and cooling brands. At the end of our inspection, you’ll receive:

  • Thorough HVAC system diagnosis
  • Easy-to-follow estimate
  • Honest answers to your questions.

Homesense Service Areas

Locally-owned and operated, our team offers the best combination of quality, service and pricing for all of your HVAC needs. We service all heating and cooling needs across Central Indiana, including:

  • Indianapolis
  • Broad Ripple
  • Meridian Kessler
  • Geist
  • Castleton
  • Carmel
  • Westfield
  • Zionsville
  • Noblesville
  • Butler-Tarkington
  • and more

10-Year Extended Parts Warranty

At Homesense, for all new system installations we register all Carrier equipment so that it qualifies for a 10-year extended parts warranty.

We also offer a 10-year extended labor warranty option, which provides you the peace of mind that your system remains protected.

In addition, we provide a one-year HVAC part warranty for all repairs made by our team of trusted Homesense HVAC technicians.

Most major brands will come with a 5-year part warranty standard, with the potential of an extended 10 year part warranty if the system has been properly registered.

The Replacement Process

If it is time for your air conditioning system to be replaced, here are some tips when shopping for a new unit.

Comparing A/C vs Heat Pump

While a heat pump looks exactly like an outdoor A/C condenser, the difference lies in the fact that both heating and cooling occur within the heat pump. On the other hand, an A/C condenser works with a split system, where cooling happens within the outside condenser and heating takes place within the indoor furnace.

When to Replace Both A/C and Furnace

In some situations, it can make the most sense for you as a homeowner to replace both your air conditioner and furnace at the same time, but not always. Here are few tips on when and when it may not be in your best interest to replace your entire HVAC system:

3 Reasons to Not Consider:

  1. Your furnace is less than 10 years old and has no issues.
  2. You don’t have the money to responsibly replace it now, or you have other large financial priorities at the moment.
  3. You are planning on moving within the next year.

4 Reasons to Consider:

  1. Your furnace is more than 10 years old and has had some issues.
  2. Resources are available to replace them both now.
  3. Your home has a downflow furnace, which means your existing furnace has to be completely removed in order to replace your air conditioner.
  4. You want a high-efficiency air conditioner, in which case you are required to also replace your furnace with a high-efficiency option.

How to Shop for the Best HVAC Service Provider

Shopping for a new air conditioning system can be a foreign process. After all, it’s not something regular basis — or at least we all hope it’s not. To help, here are five steps to help you get started in researching your local HVAC service providers:

  1. RESEARCH CUSTOMER REVIEWS: Go online and see what other people are saying about the HVAC companies you’re exploring. Check out Google and Yelp reviews to read customer reviews and better understand how consumers make decisions about their particular unit and technician.
  2. REQUIRE MULTIPLE OPTIONS IN ESTIMATE: Ask the HVAC professional you’re working with for multiple options within your estimate. Try to get at least three. You only shop for a new HVAC system maybe once a decade, so you want to fully understand the scope of market values and the cost-benefit analysis of all the different options.
  3. ENSURE UNIT RIGHT-SIZE FOR HOME: You want to make sure your unit is properly sized to the space you are heating and cooling. Technically speaking, this is called a heat load calculation, which determines the right amount of British Thermal Units (BTU), or output of your air conditioner per square footage.
  4. ASK FOR QUALIFICATIONS ON INSTALL TECHNICIAN: Don’t be shy about asking the HVAC company for the specific qualifications of the technician who will be installing your unit.
  5. TAKE TIME TO MAKE BEST DECISION: Purchasing a new HVAC system is a big decision, so take your time and don’t feel rushed. Do plenty of research, read reviews from other customers, and know your technician. One night of uncomfortable temperatures will be worth a lifetime of making the right choice.

Family on white couch with ductless | Residential Air Conditioning Repair: Indy Homeowner Guide | Homesense

Standard vs High-Efficiency Units

When deciding between a standard vs. high-efficiency air conditioning unit, it’s important to understand the similarities and differences.

Similarly, both units effectively cool your home and offer similar life expectancy with good maintenance practices. Additionally, both use gas and electric power sources and work well with smartphone thermostat options.

Conversely, high-efficiency units include higher seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) ratings, meaning more air gets cooled for less energy (and money) — usually provide payback within 3-6 years of your purchase. More specifically, the variable speed blower and dual heat exchangers use less electricity and gas, respectively, to increase home interior comfort, and the unit’s advanced control board also allows for predictive alerts to homeowners and HVAC companies when issues arise within the system.

So how do you know which one to choose? Here are three questions to consider when deciding between a standard vs. high-efficiency unit:

  1. How many days will you be using A/C?
  2. What is your current electric bill during these months?
  3. How long do you plan to own your home?

Our Available Air Conditioning Systems

Did you know your heating and air conditioning system costs more than any other system in your home? It makes up about 48% of your total utility bill on average.

Learn more about our options for air conditioning systems here.

Other Related A/C Products

In addition to the air conditioning systems, you may need to consider replacement or adding other related heating and cooling products.

Ductless Mini Splits

Ductless heating and cooling systems are one of the fastest growing components in the industry. They offer quiet high-efficient systems with the same capacity of the traditional ducted HVAC unit. We often recommend adding these systems in master bedrooms, sunrooms and finished attics.

The benefits of Ductless Heating & Cooling systems include:

  • Quiet operation
  • Immediate access to high capacity
  • Top quality energy efficiency options
  • Incentives from utility providers

Smart Thermostats

Smart thermostats are quickly becoming the most popular option on the market. They are compatible with most smartphones and allow control of the temperature of your home from anywhere, anytime. Homesense carries the top brands — such as Nest, Carrier’s Cor thermostat and Honeywell’s Lyric thermostat. Because they control energy use, these options reduce costs and increase the comfort of your home year-round.

The benefits of a Smart Thermostat include:

  • Ability to control from your smartphone from inside and outside of your home.
  • Estimated 20 percent or more cost energy savings
  • $100 rebate from most utility providers

Inverter

The inverter controls the speed of the compressor motor in order to continuously regulate temperatures.

The benefits of an Inverter include:

  • Increased efficiency with lower energy bills
  • Extended life of the components
  • Quieter operations
  • Fewer breakdowns

Financing Your New A/C Unit

At Homesense, we understand that few homeowners are prepared to spend the large cost of buying or replacing a furnace or air conditioner. That’s why we have partnered with Wells Fargo to offer 0 percent financing, as well as additional financing options for replacement of your HVAC unit. When ready, you can apply here.

If something is causing you to worry about the status of your HVAC system and you live in the Indianapolis area, give us a call at 317-670-0171. If you’re in our service area, we can perform a full inspection of your equipment and give you an estimate for its remaining years.

HVAC Service Areas: