Not Cool - Is Your Air Conditioner Overheating?

Posted on: 24 October 2014

You might not be able to beat the heat if your air conditioner isn't working properly. If your air conditioner feels hot to the touch and doesn't produce enough cold air, you may have an overheating machine. Fortunately, an overheating conditioner is easy to diagnose and repair.

How Can You Diagnose An Overheating A/C?

Overheating can be somewhat of a sneaking problem for your air conditioner. Outwardly, the machine's casing may not feel hot to the touch. Fortunately, there are a couple of ways to tell if something is wrong.

In newer air conditioners, overheating will trigger the automatic shutoff in the power plug. If you find your machine is regularly turning itself off, that's a good indication that your compressor is failing to properly dissipate heat. Make sure to disable any timed shutoffs you may have programmed to make sure that the machine is turning off suddenly on its own.

If your air conditioner doesn't have an automatic shutoff feature, it will trip your circuit breaker when it overheats. Plugging too many appliances into the same circuit will also do this, however, so try unplugging everything else and running the conditioner to verify that it indeed is the source of the trip.

Why Does Your Air Conditioner To Overheat?

In A/Cs, heat is dissipated in the air compressor. When the compressor coil, fins, or refrigerant is compromised, heat can be retained at dangerous levels, which is what causes your circuit to trip or your machine to turn off.

A common cause of overheating is a dirty compressor coil. Dust and dirt can gather on the coil over time, especially if the machine sits unused over the cold winter months. Debris can also fall into air conditioners from outside. In some cases, bugs can also get into your air conditioner and die after touching the coil, which can cause it to retain heat.

Bent fins in your compressor's cooling system can also fail to dissipate heat by directing it back inside the compressor instead of toward the outside. The best way to determine if the cooling fins are misshapen is to have them professionally examined, but you may also be able to find pictures of undamaged fans online by searching for your air conditioner's model name.

Your coil may also be compromised in a way that causes your machine to leak refrigerant, lowering its ability to cool itself. In these cases, you may also have noticed the conditioner failing to properly cool your rooms recently. 

What Solutions Are Available?

The solution for your overheating machine depends on the cause of the problem. In some cases, smaller machines may not be worth the cost of repairs. You should consider simply replacing very small or old air conditioners before you have them professionally fixed.

If your compressor coil is dirty or compromised by debris, you can clean it with a specialized brush made for compressor coils. You can also pay to have it professionally cleaned by an HVAC technician.

Bent fins and broken or decayed coils will need to be replaced entirely. You may be able to replace the fins yourself, but you should always have an expert replace a broken coil so as to avoid causing or worsening a refrigerant leak.

After your machine is repaired, the best way to prevent it from developing an overheating problem in the future is to have a technician regularly inspect your air compressor. You may even be able to get a discount with HVAC services if you schedule regular appointments.

Once you've confirmed that your air conditioner's problem really is overheating, it's a simple matter to call up your local HVAC expert and have the compressor serviced. In some cases, you might even be able to fix the problem yourself!