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Why Can’t My Central Air Conditioner Keep Up With the Heat?

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This isn’t what you signed up for when you got your air conditioning system for your home (or you inherited the air conditioner when you moved into your current home). You expect a central AC to provide enough cooling to keep your home comfortable, no matter the heatwave outside. And yet right now you’re struggling to stay cool even when the AC is working full-throttle. You can feel cool air coming from the vents, but it apparently isn’t enough. Why is your air conditioner experiencing problems keeping up with the hot weather?

There are many possibilities for this problem, and they range from simple ones you can correct on your own to more complicated issues requiring central AC repair in West Chester, PA, or even a full system replacement. Below, we’re going to get into some of the more common causes of an AC that can’t keep up.

The air filter is clogged

We’ll start simple. If you still have the same air filter in the HVAC system since winter, it’s likely clogged with dust and debris. This cuts off airflow through the AC so it can’t cool down the same volume of air as it usually does. A clogged filter will also create other problems like high electrical costs and tripped circuit breakers. Put in a clean filter to see if this improves the air conditioner’s performance, and keep changing the filter every one to three months in the future. 

The thermostat is miscalibrated or otherwise malfunctioning

We imagine you’ve tried to adjust the thermostat to see if that can fix the cooling issue. But the thermostat itself may be the troublemaker. A thermostat that is miscalibrated will register incorrect temperatures and keep the air conditioner from running long enough to reach its temperature target. The thermostat may also have another malfunction that’s making it erratically turn the system on and off. You’ll need pros to fix this; don’t try to overcome the problem by setting the thermostat lower and lower, as this can damage the AC.

The air conditioner is short-cycling

This is a common problem with air conditioners where they run for a short time, shut off before completing a cooling cycle, then turn back on again a brief time later and repeat the process over and over. Short-cycling creates excessive strain on the AC, but it also means the system isn’t running long enough to properly distribute cooling around the house. There are many potential sources behind short-cycling, and you’ll need HVAC pros to find what’s wrong and have it fixed. 

The air conditioner is near the end of its service life

Poor cooling is often a sign that an air conditioner is ready to be replaced because it’s too old. You can expect an air conditioner that’s regularly maintained to last from 10 to 15 years. If your air conditioning system is in that age range—or over it—this decline in comfort power is probably telling you to look into investing in a new air conditioner. Our technicians can help you make the best choice when it comes to repairs or a replacement. 

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