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Repair & Maintenance

Red Flags to Look Out for on Your HVAC System

Here are some common red flags that people overlook when it comes to their AC unit. Don't ignore these potential issues, or risk a bigger issue down the road with your HVAC system.

HVAC tech checks outside AC unit

Whether it’s your outside AC unit not turning on in the height of summer or your furnace blowing cold air in the winter months, the last thing you need is problems with your HVAC system. That’s not just because HVAC problems can be among the more expensive repairs you’ll need to make to your home. It’s also because you depend on your HVAC to keep your home at a comfortable temperature. When things go wrong, your home can quickly become too hot, or too cold, to be safely habitable.

But, because it can cost so much to repair or replace your HVAC system, you want to be able to see problems coming, so you can get the issue fixed before your HVAC system breaks down entirely. Here are some red flags that signal common problems.Growing Energy Bills

While it’s true that electricity and natural gas get more expensive over time, you shouldn’t notice a huge difference from one season to the next. And, while it’s normal to experience a spike in heating or cooling costs after going through a particularly cold snap or hot spell, you should be on the lookout for increases in energy costs that occur for no reason.

If you haven’t adjusted the thermostat, your utility provider hasn’t raised the cost of services, and you haven’t had any extreme weather that would necessitate the use of more energy resources to keep your home at the temperature to which you’re accustomed, then there’s a good chance your growing energy bills are a sign of an HVAC problem.

1. Weird Smells

Natural gas doesn’t have a smell of its own, but gas companies add a sulfurous, rotten-egg smell so that customers can detect gas leaks. Rotten-egg smells in your home, especially near your furnace, could be the result of a gas leak, and that’s serious. If you detect a gas leak, get everyone out of your home, call your gas company’s emergency number, and follow their instructions. If you can, shut off the gas to your home until professional help arrives.

Natural gas isn’t the only source of weird HVAC smells, however. Mustiness, burning odors or chemical smells could all signify a need for furnace or AC repair.

AC Contractor Checking Inside AC unit

2. Unexpected Temperature Changes

If your AC is not cooling or your furnace is not warming your home to the temperature programmed on your thermostat, that’s a major red flag for HVAC problems. In fact, it is an HVAC problem, even if your system continues to work intermittently, or does work, but just doesn’t quite get your indoor temperature right. If your HVAC won’t kick on at all, the problem could be with something like your AC contactor, which controls the flow of electricity to various components of your unit.

3. Noises

Your AC or furnace won’t be completely silent, but you shouldn’t hear a lot more than the sound of the air coming out of your vents and, if you’re standing right next to the unit, the quiet hum of its operation. You shouldn’t hear any clanging, banging, whistling, squeaking, scraping, rattling or thumping. All of these are red flags for common HVAC problems such as a broken blower wheel.

If you hear loud rumbling from a gas furnace, however, it could be a more serious problem. Do not use your furnace until a professional has been able to look at it.

4. Leaks or Condensation Problems

It’s normal for a little water to leak from your AC unit while it’s operating, but it shouldn’t be a large amount and it should be confined to the outside of your home, where your main AC unit it. If your air ducts are sweating or you’re seeing leaks and condensation from around your vents, or on your windows, or beneath the unit or under its exhaust ports, you could have a problem with your AC.

Often, a leaky, drippy AC unit is the result of clogged, dirty AC filters. However, blockage in the drain pipes, issues resulting from improper installation, low refrigerant levels or a broken condensate pan could be to blame. Of course, running your AC when temperatures outdoors are below 60 degrees Fahrenheit can also cause excess leakage.

An Aging System

Sad as it is to say, nothing lasts forever, and HVAC systems certainly don’t. The average HVAC system is intended to last about 15 years, so if yours is about that old or older, that’s a red flag for sudden failure, even if your system has been running well so far. You should consider getting an older system replaced, and it’s a good idea to get both your furnace and your AC replaced at the same time, so the new units are compatible and work together, rather than against one another.

No one wants to deal with an HVAC breakdown. By keeping your eyes peeled for red flags, you can nip any HVAC problems in the bud, and hopefully avoid complete failure of your system. However, if and when you do experience an A/C breakdown, you can be sure you have a plan and be sure your budget is protected with a home warranty from American Home Shield. Be sure with the Shield® and learn how you can help protect components of your home’s major systems and appliances. 

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