If you ask old-timers in Florida what the greatest invention of all time is, don’t be surprised if they answer “the air conditioner.” The summers in the Sunshine State can be brutal, and there’s nothing better than walking into a cool, comfortable room in the sweltering heat. But Floridians love their state and have learned to deal with the heat. That includes the dreaded AC emergency on a hot Florida day.

With wisdom, knowledge, and experience, Florida residents can recognize common problems and causes. They will also know when to call a professional. This guide will help you get through a Florida AC emergency step-by-step.

Know How Your AC Works

You don’t have to be an expert, but it will help you troubleshoot your AC’s problem if you know how it works. An AC unit works somewhat like a refrigerator except it cools an entire building instead of a confined space.

An AC unit extracts the warm air inside your home and replaces it with cooled air. It does this by using a liquid refrigerant that turns gases in the air into a liquid and then into a gas again. Think about sweating on a hot day. Our bodies cool down when the sweat evaporates into a gas and absorbs heat.

Changing back and forth from a gas into a liquid and back into a gas again takes place while passing through rows of coils on a loop. Warm indoor air boils the refrigerant and turns it into a gas. A fan then blows cool air into your home. The gas passes through a compressor where the refrigerant is compressed and turns back into a liquid. The hot air released gets blown outdoors by another fan.

As a final step, the refrigerant goes back towards the vents and through an expansion valve where it uses your home’s heat to boil again. The cycle continues until the indoor area reaches the temperature on the thermostat’s reading.

If any part of this process malfunctions, you may have an AC emergency.

Common AC Problems and Causes

Problems with your AC can range from not coming on to making strange noises, blowing out warm air, and puddles of water around the unit. The problems are obvious, but the causes may not be. This checklist will help.

No Power

If your AC doesn’t turn on, it may not have power. This could be because of a tripped breaker, faulty wiring, or it turned itself off because of overheating. Check the circuit breaker and reset it if necessary. If your unit is a newer model, it should have a safety feature that turns the AC off if it has too much heat or pressure. Otherwise, the problems may be caused by a dirty filter. To have your wiring inspected, it’s best to consult a professional.

Dirty Filter

An excessively dirty filter can cause an AC emergency. A clogged filter will trap air and cause the system to inefficiently cool your home down. Another clue is a higher-than-usual electricity bill.

Worn-Out Fan Belt

A squeaky noise coming from your AC unit most likely means the fan belt has worn out. This is an AC emergency and requires the expertise of a professional. If you wait too long and the belt breaks, the repair will be more costly.

Defective Fan Motor

A fan motor that isn’t working won’t circulate cool air. A professional may be able to fix it, or it may have to be replaced.

Refrigerant Leak

A hissing noise coming from your AC is a symptom of a refrigerant leak. Leaking refrigerant not only decreases your AC unit’s efficiency, but it’s also bad for the environment. A professional can fix the leak, replace the tubing, and recharge your AC system.

Frozen Evaporator Coil

If your AC is putting out warm air instead of cool air, an evaporator coil may be frozen. The cause may be low refrigerant or continuously running your AC non-stop. An HVAC professional can make the repairs and prevent this AC emergency from happening again.

Defective Compressor

Warm air emitting from your unit’s fan can also be a sign your compressor isn’t working. An HVAC professional will know whether it can be fixed or if it’s better to replace your unit.

Clogged Condenser Drain

Is there a pool of water by your AC unit? Your condenser drain may have a blockage. A clogged condenser drain is caused by dirt, algae, and other debris that builds up over time. It can cause water damage in your home. Be sure to call our professional technicians to flush the drain and remove the clog. They will apply an algaecide to prevent this from happening again.

Cause of Emergency Air Conditioning Issues

While sometimes an emergency air conditioning repair is unavoidable — accidents do happen — many of the primary causes of broken AC units can be prevented. Some of the common reasons an air conditioning unit may malfunction include:

Poor Maintenance

Improper maintenance (or the lack of maintenance) can cause breakdowns and shorten the life of your AC unit. Your AC maintenance should include the following.

  • Change filters regularly
  • Monitor coolant levels
  • Keep coils clean
  • Straighten cooked fins
  • Have a professional annual inspection

A Dirty System

Avoid an AC unit that doesn’t cool well by making sure your air filters are cleaned or changed. Your owner’s manual will explain where the filter is and how to clean or replace it.

Outside Unit Blockage

Frequently check your AC unit’s outside components to make sure overgrown grass, plants, or other objects aren’t blocking airflow. If the airflow is restricted, your system will fail to completely cool your home. The unit will be overworked and wear out more quickly.

Faulty Thermostat

Airflow and temperature together affect your entire AC system. It’s worth a look to make sure you set it correctly as modern thermostats can be complicated. Also, check to see if the battery needs replacing.


Overuse can shorten your AC unit’s lifespan. On really hot days, have an outdoor cookout instead of using the oven. Closing your curtains to block out the hot sun will help. Try to turn the thermostat up at night and on cooler days. Turn your ceiling fans counterclockwise to help push cool air down.

Inadequate Insulation

Insulation plays an important role in keeping your home comfortable in every season. If your attic doesn’t have enough insulation, your AC will have to work harder to keep your indoor air cooler. A stressed system can lead to a breakdown. If you need help, a professional can advise you on adding insulation.

What to Do While You Wait

HVAC professionals in Florida stay busy in the summer. Keeping cool while you wait is an important step in handling an AC emergency. Here are some tips.

  • Keep the windows closed
  • Close the curtains or blinds
  • Use fans
  • Find a shady spot outdoors
  • Go to the mall or a restaurant

The professionals at J&W Heating and Air + Plumbing in Jacksonville are on standby all summer to help you through your AC emergency. We can install, repair, and maintain air conditioners and heaters. We also provide plumbing and indoor air quality services.

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