Nothing is as frustrating on a hot, sweltering day than discovering that the air conditioner is running but not lowering the temperature inside the home. There are several reasons for an air conditioner running but not lowering temperature to occur: A dirty air filter may be the culprit, or the refrigeration system isn’t working, or the AC blower belt may be broken. It may not even be the AC that’s the problem – poor ventilation, blocked vents, or bad air circulation can heat up the home no matter how long the air conditioner is running. It’s hard to troubleshoot AC problems when you’re sweating, and even if the best solution is to call your home warranty company or a repair company immediately, you still want to stay cool while you wait for help to arrive. Luckily, there are steps you can take in the interim while your AC is not working to cool down the home for you and your family.
Energy experts recommend not lowering your AC setting when you want to quickly cool the house. The best temperature for the indoor AC is as close as possible (within your comfort zone) to the current outdoor temp. Lowering the temp too far overworks your AC and uses more energy. The air conditioner running but not lowering temperature in the home may be a sign that the AC is already overworked, and that there are spaces in the home that the cool air just can’t reach. This problem can be solved with strategic thinking, as well as the help of a fan. But first things first: Perform a quick inspection to make sure air is actually blowing from all the vents. Are any of the vents blocked by furniture, curtains, or other obstacles? Other topics of concern: Your home should be properly insulated, and there should be nothing blocking the AC unit outside (like leaves or other debris). Ensure all windows are energy-efficient, and keep the blinds and curtains drawn in direct sunlight (the warm sun may feel nice at first, but it can quickly heat the room beyond a comfortable AC level). Check the battery in the thermostat to make sure it does not need replacing, and set the AC to the cooling position rather than the auto position. If the air conditioner running but not lowering temperature is still a problem, call a repair company to inspect the unit, and break out a fan. There are still ways to stay cool.
Elementary school science class taught us that heat rises, which is why the second floors of homes are always warmer than the ground floors. With the air conditioner running but not lowering temperatures in the home, you can use a little bit of that science to circulate cooler air and reduce the heat of the room. Strategically placing a fan (like the portable utility fan or an air circulator fan) can create a breeze that works against the heat. Cool air drops as heat rises, and manipulating the air flow of the space can help circulate the cool air upwards and disperse the hot air near the ceiling. Place your fan underneath or beside the AC vent. Air should still be blowing from the vent, even if the air conditioner is running but not lowering temperatures. Position the fan head so that it is facing down and out. The breeze from the fan will push the cool air up, and move the air from the vent into the room. It’s possible that there is nothing wrong with the AC at all; the circulation in the room may be to blame. Adding a second fan across the room, or placed down a hall where pockets of hot air can often become trapped without ventilation, creates the effect of a cross breeze. When more than one fan is used, the hot air isn’t allowed to settle and cool air is moved upwards to where you can actually feel it. This creates a comfortable cycle that cools down your space. Try using a tower fan like the Space-Saving Performance Tower Fan or a Wind Curve® Tower Fan with Nighttime Setting in the living room; both have a modern design and slim style that doesn’t take up much space, but deliver a powerful blast of breeze. In the hallway, try a pedestal fan or a table fan. The 18″ Pedestal Fan with Remote Control placed at the end of a hall is perfect for moving cool air, and the 12″ Table Fan is small enough to fit on a side table or bookcase.
The air conditioner running but not lowering temperature may indicate that there is not enough exhaust to force warm air from the space. Again, it’s a matter of ventilation and circulation over actual temperatures. Hot air in small, enclosed rooms without proper ventilation can become a sauna. Using a motorized window fan capable of pulling hot air from the room allows for the AC to do its job of blowing cool air inside. While windows should be covered during the heat of the day, a window fan like an 8″ Electrically Reversible Twin Window Fan or an Electrically Reversible Twin Window Fan with Remote Control can be used in the lower half of the window to bring in fresh air and pull out old, stale, hot air. The reversible fan can simultaneously pull in fresh air and exhaust warm air, or work in tandem to create extra circulation by pushing fresh air into the room. A box fan, like the Weather-Shield® Select 20″ Box Fan with Thermostat, is portable, and can be moved from room to room as needed to circulate air. When a room becomes too hot for the air conditioner running but not lowering temperature, a box fan can fit snugly into the window for a temporary cooling fix.
After using fans to cool down the space, you may discover that the air conditioner running but not lowering temperature was a short-term problem after all. Once the home has improved air circulation, the AC may not have to work as hard, and you’ll find that it actually lowers the temperature. If this is the case, cancel the repairman, and use your fans on a daily basis. Fans like the box fan cost less than two cents an hour to run, lowering your energy bill and saving more than the cost of a repairman. If the problem with the air conditioner running but not lowering temperature continues after completing your quick home inspection, positioning the fans, and letting them run for a bit, it’s time to call in a professional.