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What To Do When Your Home’s HVAC is Not Working

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Ask a Contractor: What Do I Do if My HVAC Stops Working?

During both the scorching, sweltering heat of summer and the frigid winds of winter, we rely on our HVAC systems to keep our homes comfortably cool or warm. In fact, we’ve all become so used to having heat and air conditioning in our house that we don’t know what we’d do if it stopped working. No one wants to sweat through the night or have to wear a winter coat indoors!

Do you call an expert as soon as your HVAC has trouble, or do you roll up your sleeves and apply a little elbow grease first? And how can you tell whether the problem is with your HVAC system or something else entirely? Today, we’ll help answer these questions and more, plus break down what you could do if your HVAC stops working.

5 Signs Your HVAC System Isn’t Working

Let’s face it – some HVAC systems are so old and clunky it can be tough to tell whether they are working as normal or are truly malfunctioning. Even if your home feels strangely warm or cold, you might not know if it’s your HVAC system, a draft in the house, or another issue.

If you aren’t sure whether or not your HVAC unit needs some attention, check for these five surefire signs.

1. No airflow

Naturally, if your vents aren’t sucking air in or pushing it out, you’ve got a big problem. Worse, no airflow could be due to a root problem with the HVAC unit or a blockage in the vents themselves.

woman feeling if her air conditioning unit is working

Hold your hand near the HVAC vents in your home to see if they’re moving air properly. Many HVAC vent setups have one big vent near the ground level to suck up hot air when the AC runs – check this vent specifically for the easiest airflow check for your entire HVAC system.

2. You hear loud noises

When you can’t fall asleep because your HVAC system is constantly rattling, grinding, or groaning, it might be a sign that there’s an issue with:

If loud noises persist, don’t keep your HVAC system running and humming along. Calling an expert ASAP might be the best course of action to prevent mechanical damage.

3. Your home smells odd or bad

Everyone’s home should smell pleasant and welcoming. But if your AC or furnace is spewing foul stenches into your living room and bedroom, it’s definitely a sign your HVAC system needs some help.

A broken or malfunctioning HVAC system might emit a few specific bad smells, like:

A moldy, musty smell could mean, you guessed it, that you have mold growing around or in your AC. Call an expert soon since that’s no small problem. Don’t turn your AC unit on until it’s taken care of.

4. Your energy bill is higher than normal

If you glance at your energy bill for the month and your heart skips a beat at the sky-high price, it might not be your utility company spiking the rates. Instead, it might be that your HVAC system isn’t working as efficiently as normal. So it’s forced to run overtime and use much more electricity to reach your desired temperature.

5. Your thermostat is stuck

Lastly, if you set your air conditioning or heating to a specific temperature but it never seems to heat or cool to your preferences, your thermostat itself might be busted. Cross your fingers that this is the case, as replacing a broken thermostat or finding a new battery is comparatively cheap and easy compared to other HVAC repairs you might have to consider.

How to Fix Your Broken HVAC Yourself

If your HVAC is suffering from one of the above signs and it’s not as simple as replacing your thermostat’s battery, you might be able to do a few DIY repairs to address your heating and cooling issues. Keep in mind that these repairs are only slightly invasive – any major repairs or replacements can and should only be done by a licensed HVAC technician.

Clean the AC condenser

All air conditioning systems have condenser units. An AC condenser is the outdoor portion of an air conditioner or heat pump that either releases or collects heat, depending on the time of the year. Depending on its location, the condenser could be clogged by dust or be obstructed by dirt or debris.

In either case, remove any obstructions around your AC’s condenser and see if that solves the problem.

Check for a tripped breaker or blown fuse

If your HVAC system isn’t working, check the fuses and circuit breakers for your house’s electrical grid. Your home should have at least one panel, probably in the garage or laundry room, that has fuse controls for major appliances.

If you find a tripped breaker or blown fuse, replace the breaker to the correct position or get a new fuse. But don’t be surprised if the fuse setup is so incomprehensibly labeled that you have to call a technician anyway!

Clean the air filters and vents

When you check the vents for your HVAC system, take a rag with you and wipe away any dust you see. It might also help to get some canned air and blast out any dirt or debris that may be clogging the vents.

person replacing an HVAC filter

Similarly, your AC system probably uses standard, replaceable air filters. These prevent the system from cycling dirty air throughout your home all day. Cleaning and/or replacing the filters could solve your HVAC issues and save you some money on your energy bill.

When You Need to Replace Your HVAC

Although it’s possible to fix minor issues with your HVAC, more major issues will have to be tackled by a licensed, trained HVAC repair technician. Furthermore, if your air conditioning system is 10 to 12 years old, it’s at the end of its lifespan and should be replaced with a new unit. Furnaces, on the other hand, can last between 10 to 25 years if properly cared for.

It might be time to replace your HVAC system completely if:

Cost of HVAC Replacement

Unfortunately, HVAC replacement can take quite a bite out of your wallet. HomeAdvisor estimates that you can expect to pay around $7,000 based on national average costs. This could be cheaper if you only have to replace your air conditioning system or furnace rather than both units at once.

That said, it might be wiser to replace your entire HVAC system altogether, as opposed to replacing it in segments. But why?

In most cases, an air conditioning unit and furnace are installed together and, therefore, age at about the same rate. If you replace them both at the same time, they’ll be set for a decade or so, and you won’t need to worry about another replacement for some time.

Financing HVAC Replacement and Repair

Whether you need to replace one part of your HVAC system or the whole thing, it could be tough to pay for it all upfront. Sometimes the HVAC repair company offers financing options, or this situation can be a great reason to dip into an emergency fund. A good first step is to get a thorough evaluation of your specific circumstance by a licensed professional who can provide you with options.

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Sources accessed 2/21/2022 –


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