The weather outside is heating up, and temperatures are reaching 100 hundred-and-are-you-kidding-me. You can always retreat to the safety of your air-conditioned home, but what happens when your air conditioner isn’t working correctly?
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Why Is My Central AC Not Blowing Hard?
You come home from work after a long day in the hot sun. You’re eager to retreat into your cooled down space, throw your feet up on the couch and enjoy a sweet drink… only to find that the air coming out of the vents isn’t that strong and the inside of your home is almost as hot as the outside. You try to raise the air conditioning hoping that it will kick on and cool down the place. It doesn’t. Your spouse is hot, your children are complaining, and the family dog is fanning himself with a paw.
Uncomfortable and worried about the safety of your family, you begin to do your research. What could be wrong?
How Strong Should Air Come Out of Vents?
When you get up close to your air vents, do you feel a steady and even gust of air or does it appear to be weak or inconsistent? If the airflow coming from the vent is weak, you may have an issue with your system. To accurately diagnose the problem, you’ll need to check other vents in the home. Is the weak airflow limited to one vent or are two or more of the vents experiencing the same problem?
What to Do When You Have Weak Airflow from Vents in the House?
Before you call a technician, there are a few actions you should take to determine if the problem has a solution with some do-it-yourself maintenance or whether you need to call in a professional.
First, decide whether the issue is with one vent or more. That answer will be a guide as to what to check in your system.
Second, make sure that furniture, plants, or fabric don’t block the return vent. This could restrict the amount of air into the system.
Third, if you are comfortable doing so, check the evaporator coils (they may be in a closet, attic, or basement) for any ice formation.
Fourth, make sure that the flex ducts are not crushed. These are flexible wires tubes covered in plastic and can get damaged and cause airflow issues.
Fifth, check the dampers to make sure that they are open.
How to Improve Airflow in Vents
Once you suspect that you’ve determined the issue, there are some problems that you can fix on your own, and others that will require help from an HVAC professional.
Change Your Air Filters
This is probably the best-case scenario for your airflow problems. Air filters need to be changed regularly. When they are not changed, dirt and dust build-up and restrict the airflow out of the system. Also, you may experience increased respiratory issues. Changing your air filters is a quick fix that may solve your airflow problems all by itself.
Replace any Broken Fans
If you are experiencing a decrease in airflow, your AC blower might be to blame. Located inside the air handler, this fan is responsible for pushing the cold air through the ducts. When the blades are covered with an excessive amount of dust or the blower motor is broken, you will have issues with your system. To check this, you will need to:
1. Turn off the air conditioner.
2. Find the blower motor and check for excessive dirt or dust. You can clean this with a rag, however, be careful not to get your fingers caught.
3. Turn the air conditioner back on and check for increased airflow. If this did not improve the flow, you’d need to contact a professional.
Frozen Evaporator Coil
The evaporator coil is the component that cools your air. Occasionally, this piece will get too cold, and moisture in the home will cause it to form ice. If this is the case, you will likely notice pools of water by your indoor unit. This will cause issues with all of your vents. If you see ice on your evaporator coil:
1. Turn off the air conditioner to allow the ice to melt.
2. Check the air filter and change it if it’s dirty.
Check to make sure that all supply registers and return grates are open.
3. Turn the air conditioner back on and check for airflow and signs of freezing. If there is still ice buildup, call a professional.
Crushed Flex Ducts
If air is only being restricted in one vent, you may have discovered crushed flex ducts in your examination. If this is the case, you will need to contact an AC professional to have it fixed.
A damper is a valve in your duct system that can restrict airflow to a specific room. Occasionally these will become accidentally closed. If you have electronic dampers in your home, there should be a control near your indoor unit. If they are closed, see if opening them fixes the problem. If you can’t find the dampers or opening them didn’t improve the airflow, you’ll need to call on a professional.
Worst Case Scenario: You Have HVAC Ductwork Problems
Whether you have impaired airflow in one vent or all, the problem may be with an air duct. If they are disconnected or leaky, they will cause decreased airflow as the ducts carry cool air throughout your home. There are a variety of problems that can occur with the air ducts such as leaks, blockages, or holes which will cause issues in multiple vents. A licensed professional can examine your ductwork and determine if there are any blockages from dirt or animals if there are any leaks allowing air to escape and if any of the ducts are otherwise bent or damaged.
Your family’s comfort and safety is essential. If you suspect that there are any issues with your HVAC system, run through the do-it-yourself check and then don’t hesitate to call in a professional if the system requires anything other than a quick and easy fix. HVAC issues can be quite costly so the sooner you address them, the less chance there will be of the problems getting worse, and your home is left without air.