Just because you aren't getting the cool air that you so desperately crave doesn't mean that you have to pick up the phone and make an appointment with an HVAC tech. If there is something seriously wrong with your air conditioning system, then an appointment is in your future, but first you should take a few minutes and see if it is one of these things that you can take care of yourself.
A Thermostat On the Fritz
Compared to your air conditioner, your thermostat is a pretty simple device, but that doesn't mean it can't fail. If you aren't getting any air conditioning, try turning on the heat. Don't worry-- you only need to turn it on long enough to ensure that it does actually come on. If you can't get the heat to come on either, then there is a good chance that the thermostat simply isn't sending the correct signals down the line.
While a bad thermostat isn't exactly a pleasant problem, it is one of the least expensive to address. Use that extra money you would have spent on an emergency visit from a technician to upgrade your thermostat. A digital thermostat will give you better control over the temperature, and allow you to easily initiate a heating and cooling schedule that will save you a bundle in the long run.
A Furnace Filter That Has Just Had Enough
One really simple issue that many people forget to address is their furnace filter. In particular, they forget that it needs to be changed at least once every six months. In many homes, especially those with children or pets, the filter should really be changed every month instead. Unsurprisingly, the more dirt that gets kicked up around the house, the more dirt that will find its way into the filter. Using a higher quality filter can also create a situation where you need to change the filter more often.
As the filter fills, it makes your fan work harder to draw the same amount of air. Left too long, and your fan will shut down rather than allow further damage to the system. Unfortunately, if you are someone who habitually forgets to change the filter, you could end up having to replace the fan as well. After years of working extra hard to pull air into the system, it can just give up before its time.
A Condenser That Really, Really Needs a Bath
Another item in your system that needs maintenance every year is the condenser. Sitting outside, it will collect twigs and leaves, as well as plenty of grime. Just as with your filter, it isn't wise to let this dirt build up year after year. Over time, that dirt can do some serious damage to the inside of your condenser.
While this is the most ambitious repair, most people can handle it themselves. Take your time and go through all the directions before you get started. While you will still need to have a technician do an inspection of the electrical components every few years, you can certainly remove the cover and hose down the inside without too much trouble.
Not every problem requires a visit from a tech-- there are plenty of things the average homeowner can handle on their own. That being said, there are plenty of things that you should hire a professional to work on for you. Just because you can find instructions online, doesn't mean that you should tackle the project. With any project, stop for a minute and consider whether or not you actually have the skills to complete it. If not, the money spent on a professional is worth every penny.
A few years ago, I could tell that we were having serious furnace problems. In addition to dealing with a house that was constantly too cold or too warm, we were also plagued by a noisy, smelly furnace that seemed to have trouble on a daily basis. Unfortunately, I didn't know enough about furnaces at the time to spot the problems quickly. One day, the entire system died, and it was beyond repair. After having that experience, I learned a lot about HVAC systems, so that I could troubleshoot future systems. This website is all about teaching you what you need to know so that you don't end up in the same situation.