Summer is the most stressful time of year for air conditioners, which means you need to be extra vigilant for signs that your system is in trouble. The faster you can identify that your air conditioner is having problems, the faster you can get it repaired and the better of it will be. One of the most obvious signs that your air conditioner is in trouble is the presence of strange noises during operation. Let’s look over some of the common noises that can indicate a problem with the air conditioner and what they mean.
Your air conditioner relies on a part called the air handler to circulate air throughout the home. The air handler is basically a large motor with a fan attached to it. Inside the air handler motor are a number of oiled bearings, which help to reduce friction on the system. The bearings wear down over time, causing friction on the motor to increase. This causes a loud grinding sound while the air conditioner is operating. If you hear this sound, contact a professional as soon as possible. If the bearings are not replaced, the air handler motor will burn out. Replacing a burnt-out motor is a lot more expensive than replacing a few bearings.
Hissing noises usually indicate you have air bubbles in your refrigerant line, which means that you probably have a leak somewhere. This is a problem, as your air conditioner relies on a set amount of refrigerant to operate properly. As the refrigerant is drained from the system, the output capacity of the system will drop, as well. Eventually, the refrigerant level will drop to the point that the air conditioner can no longer continue operating properly. If you notice fluid dripping from your air conditioner, especially if it’s making these noises, you should call for repairs as soon as possible.
If the air conditioner seems to consistently shut itself off after only a few minutes of operation, it might be short-cycling. Short-cycling is an issue caused by one of a number of different factors, usually an electrical issue. It severely hampers the system’s ability to cool a home, and it accelerates the rate at which the various parts of the system wear down. Prolonged short-cycling causes the system to break down more often, and can even shorten its lifespan by a number of years. If you hear your system short-cycling, you should call for professional repairs as soon as possible. Otherwise, you may find yourself replacing your air conditioner much sooner than you otherwise would have to.
Even if you don’t see the noise you’re hearing covered in this list, you should still probably call a professional if you notice your air conditioner making any kind of unusual sounds. It could be nothing, or it could indicate a serious issue that needs to be fixed. Better to be safe than sorry.