Air Conditioning And Hot Weather

Do you have air conditioning trouble shooting check list?

During hot summer months, you can hear the buzz of air conditioning units running continuously. They are an essential part of many homes.  All of my rentals that I manage have central air conditioning units and some have an additional window unit for second floor areas that are difficult to cool.

I talk to a lot of tenants every week who are unhappy with the interior temperature of their home. It usually stars with the tenant putting in a work order because the air conditioning is not cooling properly.  Most tenants do not understand that turning the thermostat way down will not instantly cool the home to a colder temperature.

Try To Solve Work Orders

Part of my job is to try to solve work order related issues prior to scheduling service and costing the property owner money.  That means I call the tenant and review the work order first. For an air conditioning unit, there are several things that we discuss prior to service being scheduled.  Some of the things covered are educational and some require the tenant to do something.

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I first talk to the tenant about their issue. The bottom line is that if the unit is cooling and running normally, there may not be anything that can be done. I explain that the average system should be able to maintain a 10 to 15 degree difference between the exterior temperature and the interior temperature of your home.  In other words, no air conditioning system is not designed to keep a home at 69 degrees when it is 90+ degrees outside.  The system is just not going to cool any house that much when it is so hot outside.  This conversation many times will result in the work order being cancelled. The tenant may not be happy but I am not going to send a contractor out to look at something that cannot be fixed.

System Is Working Properly

Once we determine that there is nothing wrong with the system, we then discuss some actionable things that the tenant can do to make the house a little cooler.  I believe anyone managing rental properties should review this air conditioning trouble shooting check list with their tenants.

How can your tenant help the air conditioning unit work better?

  1. Most importantly, make sure your furnace filter is clean at all times! A dirty furnace filter will cause the system to work much harder and it will not work as efficiently. Many times the HVAC technician will show up and the filter is the only issue. I tell the tenant to change the furnace filter often! It is recommended that it be changed every 30 days but that may not be often enough in some cases.
  2. Walk outside and make sure the exterior unit is not completely covered with weeds, debris, etc. Proper air flow around the exterior unit is essential for it to work properly.
  3. Keep all mini blinds or drapes closed during the heat of the day. If your tenant does not have any, consider either installing them or telling the tenant to do so. The sun shining into a home will cause it to heat up rapidly.
  4. Keep exterior doors closed at all times. Try to limit how many times they go in and out during the heat of the day.
  5. If your tenant has a basement, close all registers in that area. This will force more air up to the first and second floors.
  6. Make sure the return air vents and the supply vents are not covered by furniture. Make sure your tenant understands that they will feel air coming out of the supply vents but not feel air coming out of the return air flow vents.  The return air vents are generally located higher than the supply vents.
  7. Seal gaps around windows and doors to prevent the cooled air from escaping. If you tenant cannot or will not do this, send maintenance over to see what needs to be done.
  8. Remind your tenant to check the exterior temperature. Then remind them that if it is very hot outside, just because the thermostat is set on 70 degrees and it is 75 in the home, there will be nothing that can be done to “fix” this issue.
  9. Consider installing ceiling fans in all rooms to help circulate air more efficiently.


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Trouble Shooting AC Not Working Correctly

If it the air conditioning does not seem to be working at all or if it is blowing warm air, there are a few things you should have the tenant check before sending the work order to a technician.

  1. Make sure the breaker is not tripped in the panel box. If it is tripped, instruct the tenant turn it back on and see if that solves the problem. If not, send the work order.
  2. Instruct the tenant to walk outside and look at the exterior condensing unit. If it looks white, it is frozen up. The tenant needs to immediately turn the system off and put in a work order. The system must un-thaw before it can be serviced. Have the tenant note the time the system was turned it off in the work order. The technician will not come out until it has un-thawed. This can take several hours.
  3. Instruct your tenant to tell you if there are weeds and debris around the unit. This will obstruct air flow. Poor air flow around the exterior unit will cause it to not be able to function properly. Instruct the tenant to remove all of the vegetation and see if that helps. You may have to send someone over to do this.
  4. Have your tenant check the furnace filter, even if you are told it was just changed! If it is dirty, tell your tenant to change it and give the system some time to recover.
  5. If all else fails, send over the work order. It is very important for your or the tenant to put as much detail in the work order as possible. Also, list any steps that were taken to correct the issue first.

Why Go To This Trouble?

I get asked occasionally why I go to the trouble of reviewing this air conditioning trouble shooting check list with my tenants. The reason is simple. Sending a licensed heating and air conditioning professional costs money.  It is very frustrating when the technician shows up and flips a breaker or calls and says the unit is frozen up.  The tenant will be charged for a tripped breaker. This has wasted someone’s time and the tenant is going to be unhappy.  A unit that is frozen up cannot be worked on until it has thawed out.  The property owner will be billed for a trip to say the unit is thawed and will then be billed again when he returns to work on the unit.

Going through this list of things may not be convenient for the tenant and does take a little more time for you. However, it will save money in the long run by not sending someone to repair a system that is working properly.  It can also prevent the tenant from going without air conditioning unnecessarily.  You will also get more details and can help the technician sent to make repairs by giving him more details.


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