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What to do when your A/C won’t turn on

Common Air Conditioning System problems and how to  know when it’s time to call Restivo’s for repair

It finally happened: the cold has dissipated and the hot weather has arrived. Time to fire up the air conditioning! After months of hibernation, your air conditioning system may not seem to be working as well as it did last year. How do you know what’s wrong with it and when it’s time to call in the pros?

For this post, we’ll be focusing on a big problem: The air conditioning system will not turn on

Potential causes: This is a tough one as there can be so much going on with a system that may cause it not to fire up, and it’s going to be next to impossible to diagnose exactly what’s going on without coming out to inspect the unit, but here are a few possible causes:

But there are a few things YOU can do to possibly solve this issue before calling a technician.

Follow these steps.

Step 1: Make sure the thermostat is set to “cool”

Make sure that your thermostat is set to “cool” and not “heat” or “off”. If it’s set to “heat” or “off”, your A/C won’t come on no matter what tests you run.

Turn the temperature setting down a bit, maybe 5 degrees or so, to see if the A/C starts up

If you have no luck with either of those, move on to…

Step 2: Check the circuit breaker

If the circuit breaker for the air conditioning system has tripped, no power will be going to it. Reset the breaker and see if the system fires up. If the breaker trips again within a few minutes, do not reset it yourself. Call a professional because the problem is most likely an electrical one, and we do not recommend troubleshooting that yourself.

If that wasn’t the issue…

Step 3: Check the air filter

Find your system’s air filter and see if it is dirty. There will probably be some dirt on it, but if it’s completely opaque, it’s time to change it. A dirty air filter prevents air from returning to the air conditioner, which halts the whole system due to overheating and really wastes energy.

Step 4: Clear the condensate drain

Get a wet/dry vacuum and clear out the main condensate drain line, which is usually a 3/4″ PVC pipe that’s located close to the outside A/C unit. Put the hose for the wet/dry vac right up to the drain line and suck out any debris or obstructions. Keep the vacuum running for about 4-5 minutes to ensure everything is cleared out.

If none of this is successful, call Restivo’s at 401-351-REST and we will send one of our knowledgeable service techs out to troubleshoot for you.

Stay tuned for our next post in this series!


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  • Braden Bills
    October 8, 2018, 10:11 AM REPLY

    My AC won’t turn on, and I’m not sure what to do. It makes sense that I would want to take a look at it and ensure that it’s properly set up! If I can’t figure out what’s wrong, then it might be a good idea for me to get a professional to take a look at it.

  • Braden Bills
    May 17, 2019, 9:20 AM REPLY

    My AC won’t turn on, and I’m not sure what to do. It makes sense that it might be a problem with the circuit breaker! I would feel a lot more comfortable having a professional take a look at this stuff for me. They would be able to figure out what the problem is without risking damage to the home.

  • Tyler Johnson
    June 11, 2019, 3:19 PM REPLY

    That’s good to know that there are a few things you could try before calling in a technician. I would think that would be good to try so that you could save some money. I’ll have to make sure that I know of a good repairman in my area in case my air conditioner won’t turn on and none of these things work.

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