What to Do When Your A.C. Breaks

in Help Me Now! on by
Woman tries to repair the broken air conditioning unit in her apartment.

Summer is in full swing, and the temperatures are soaring. And while some of us may bask in the warmth, most of us like to slip into a cool air-conditioned room every now and then. But what do you do when the unthinkable happens?

If your air conditioner suddenly stops working, you may find yourself in a bit of a pickle. After all, those summer nights can be unbearable – and you definitely need your zzz’s. But before you go out and spend that hard-earned dough on a new unit, check out some tips for what to do when the one you already have goes belly up:

Where Do You Live?

Believe it or not, this is important. If you live in an apartment complex, on-site maintenance is most likely included in your lease agreement, as larger properties will often have a designated maintenance team. You’ll most likely have to put in a request for a maintenance visit through the rental office or by contacting an agent directly.

However, if you live in an apartment that has a single landlord, it’s likely you will have to contact a repair company yourself (especially if you purchased and installed the unit in question). If the AC was already there when you moved in, you should contact your landlord to see if they’ll arrange a repair for you. Every state has different tenant laws, so your landlord may not be obligated to initiate a repair on the unit. You should also make sure to consult your lease, because it will have valuable information about what is and isn’t the landlord’s responsibility.

Tip: Your lease isn’t the only document you should check out. Sometimes your AC will have a warranty that may cover repairs if you’re still within the appropriate period.

Troubleshooting Tips

Hand hovers over apartment AC vent to see if it's working properly.

If you’ve determined that the wonky AC is, in fact, your responsibility, the first step is to try and diagnose the problem. Most of us aren’t heating and cooling experts, of course, so this can be as simple as “the AC is blowing hot air,” “it’s not turning on,” or “it’s leaking.” Believe it or not, some problems can be addressed pretty quickly at home as long as you’re willing to get your hands a little dirty.

There are several resources that can help with AC troubleshooting, but the best place to start is often the manufacturer of your unit. Most instruction manuals are available online (unless your AC is a dinosaur!) and offer useful tips for why your AC might be misbehaving.

YouTube tutorials are also helpful here, but remember to always take all of the necessary safety precautions before attempting repairs of any kind. If it needs to be repaired, chances are you’ll have to contact a professional. Still, online tutorials may be able to give you tips on how to clean out the filter, or how to open the access door to check for frozen coils. Both of these things could cause your AC to take a time out, and can safely and easily be taken care of yourself.

If you’ve cleaned the filter and done your research but your AC still isn’t working, don’t sweat it! There are still a few things you can do to chill out your space.

Tip: Always make sure your AC is clean before firing it up for the first time. Taking a few minutes here could potentially save you a lot of time and frustration in the future.

Catch a Cool Breeze

Just because the AC is broken doesn’t mean you can’t cool off in the meantime. Arrange fans to create a cross draft and get a bit of air circulating throughout the apartment, and avoid using the oven and stovetop to prevent unnecessary heat from making the room even more stifling. If you only have a couple of fans at your disposal, get creative —move them around throughout the day to the room or rooms you spend the most time in. For example, if you work from home, keep them in your home office during the day, then at night move them to your bedroom. Keeping the blinds and curtains closed in rooms you aren’t using may also help to keep the blazing sun from heating up your space. Also, try to avoid turning on unnecessary lights. This may seem like a small thing, but they can make for surprising sources of heat when you’re AC-less.

Tip: Check your air conditioner to see if the blower is still working. Even if the cooling unit isn’t functioning, the air from the blower may still be cooler than what’s coming in from outside.

Find a Reputable Repair Company in Your Area

Professional technician repairs a broken air conditioner inside an apartment.

Getting your AC repaired might take a little time, especially in the summer. Start by finding a reputable repair company in your area that can take a look at your unit ASAP. You may need to do a little research here, as not all repair companies are created equal. Ask your neighbors or landlord for tips, check Nextdoor or other neighborhood apps and online groups, and check Yelp and Google reviews to see who scores the highest marks (and fits your budget).

It’s always good to be informed before the repair company arrives, so be prepared with all necessary documents. You may need to contact your landlord or download documents from the manufacturer, but it will be worth it, and it might even save you a little time.

Tip: All your troubleshooting research will also come in handy here, as it will help you communicate more effectively with the repair technician(s).

A broken AC is a nightmare in the summer, and it can make your apartment feel like a tropical rainforest crossed with a sauna — uncomfortable at best, and unbearable at worst. But by following all the above tips, you’ll be prepared for anything and able to get your air conditioning unit on the road to recovery as soon as possible.

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