You might be pretty handy. Maybe you know your way around tools. Maybe you do regular maintenance on your car, or you’ve fixed up the broken coffee machine at your workplace.
No matter how skilled you are at basic maintenance, you should think twice before attempting DIY HVAC repairs.
When something goes wrong with your commercial air conditioning unit, it might be tempting to just fix it yourself. But you’re likely to end up with an even bigger mess on your hands, for a variety of reasons.
The complex hardware and technology incorporated into today’s central air conditioner units aren’t meant for a DIY approach, especially from well-meaning amateurs. Even worse, trying to fix it yourself could be dangerous.
Here are the top reasons why you should leave DIY HVAC repairs to the professionals.
Why You Shouldn’t DIY Commercial Air Conditioning Repairs
When you turn to a fix-it-yourself approach, you could end up risking more than just the air conditioning unit itself. You could be risking your safety — and the safety of those around you.
Your commercial air conditioning unit should never be a DIY project. Here’s why.
1. It Requires Special Equipment
While fixing up your coffee table can be done with a few household tools, a hammer and pliers won’t get the job done when it comes to commercial heating and air conditioning units. In order to fix these systems, professionals use specialized equipment and tools that are built specifically for HVAC repair.
These tools can cost thousands of dollars and are required to correctly troubleshoot the problem and get it fixed. Without these professional tools, you could end up causing more damage to the unit than you started with.
2. It Requires Special Training
HVAC repair professionals train for years, preparing for their role and doing hands-on work as an apprentice before becoming certified to do repairs of equipment.
Unless you have that kind of training, it’s best to step away from the DIY work. You’re bound to make a mistake that could prove costlier than hiring a trained professional in the first place.
3. It Could Compromise Your Safety
When it comes to HVAC repair, what you don’t know can definitely hurt you. An important part of training for repair professionals is learning how to conduct their work safely. Without that training — or the professional safety tools — you won’t be certified to work with the inherent risks of the job.
What exactly are these risks? Let’s take a look at a few below:
- High Volts of Electricity. HVAC systems run 220 to 240 volts of current. Just crossing the wrong wires could mean getting a serious shock, or even electrocution.
- Handling Chemicals. A huge component of HVAC repair is handling chemicals and refrigerants, which could be dangerous if not handled properly. Without the proper training and safety gear, you could be exposed to deadly chemicals or toxic combustion fumes.
- Flammable Gas. Another potentially dangerous component is flammable pressurized natural gas, which could go up in flames without proper handling. This could lead to serious burns.
- Sharp Edges. Like many systems, air conditioning and heating systems involve metal parts, many of which have sharp edges. These edges can be extremely sharp — as sharp as a scalpel — which means you could end up with a deep, serious cut without even realizing it.
4. It Could Compromise the Safety of Others
It isn’t just your safety you have to worry about. When an air conditioning unit is repaired incorrectly, it could pose an ongoing risk to other occupants of the space. For example, your workplace could now be at risk of fire or deadly carbon monoxide poisoning as the systems operate unrepaired.
5. It Reduces Efficiency
Even if your DIY repair seems like it has gone well, things might not be functioning as they should be. Without professional care, it’s likely that your heater or air conditioner isn’t working at its full efficiency.
Due to poor quality maintenance or repair, the units won’t perform up to the manufacturer’s standards. This could lead to faulty equipment or higher operating costs for the life of the unit.
6. It Could Void Your Warranty
Depending on the unit and how old it is, you may still have a warranty that covers repair or replacement. However, these manufacturer’s warranties typically require proof that any past maintenance, repair, or replacement was conducted by a qualified, accredited HVAC professional.
This means that if you try to fix it yourself and make a mistake, you could void your warranty entirely. Especially on a unit that can cost thousands of dollars, this could be a costly mistake.
7. It Takes Complex Diagnostics
You can’t just look at an HVAC unit and know exactly what to fix. These are complicated machines with hundreds of parts. How do you know where to start?
Both diagnosing and fixing these units requires a lot of training.
8. It Could Be a Sign of a Bigger Issue
Small problems can quickly spiral into bigger ones. What you might troubleshoot as a small issue could really just be a symptom of a much larger one.
Even if you fix the minor problem, you could just be putting a bandaid over a deeper, underlying issue that will eventually become costly and dangerous down the road.
9. It Can Lead to Additional Costs
You might think you’re saving money by taking on the job yourself, but cutting corners like this could wind up being even more costly.
Connect the wrong parts, use the wrong tool, and you could end up blowing your condenser or another expensive piece of equipment.
Making a single mistake could lead to more damage, more issues, and more costs later down the line. What starts as a twenty-minute repair could end as up as a costly HVAC replacement.
HVAC Repairs You Definitely Shouldn’t Try
While DIY repairs are never a good idea, some HVAC issues that definitely need the attention of a licensed professional. If you notice any of these signs in your heating or air conditioning units, call a technician immediately.
If you notice anything wrong with the electrical systems, you should never attempt the repair yourself. All electrical work should be handled by a certified professional. The results could otherwise be fatal.
Lack of Airflow
Try putting your hand in front of your vent. If the airflow is weak — or if there’s no airflow at all — you need to call an HVAC expert to diagnose the source of the issue. A change in airflow could be caused by a number of different problems. you need a technician to identify the issue before you can start making repairs.
Replacement of the Unit
In some cases, your air conditioner may be beyond repair. If this is the case for your HVAC unit, you should never try to install a new system yourself.
Not only is it extremely dangerous, but you could end up wasting your time and your money by damaging the brand-new unit. Instead, hire a professional team to conduct the installation.
What Can You Do Instead?
Just because DIYing your HVAC system isn’t a good idea doesn’t mean that you have to abandon your DIY tendencies. You can still take things into your own hands through troubleshooting and maintenance.
Taking care of your unit can help keep things running smoothly for longer. Plus, identifying the root of the issue is the first step towards getting professional help.
Troubleshooting Your HVAC Unit
While you should always call in a professional when your unit begins to malfunction, many common problems can be diagnosed before you call. Here are a few steps you can take to diagnose the issue yourself — without breaking out the tools and potentially causing more damage.
Ensure that the system has power before you begin. Locate the service panel and make sure that the circuit breaker didn’t trip.
Turn the circuit breaker off for approximately 30 seconds and then turn it back on.
If you feel like the room or building isn’t cooling down or heating up fast enough, check the thermostat. Then, check the registers and vents to make sure that they’re open.
Examine the filters and clear away any dirt, debris, or other materials that may be obstructing it. If the filter is disposable or if it’s beginning to show signs of wear and tear, replace it with a new one.
If the ventilation system isn’t blowing, first locate the blower motor. Then check the surface for any cracks or other damage.
Check your thermostat settings. This might seem obvious, but many common HVAC malfunctions are related to incorrect thermostat settings.
Many HVAC units contain coils. Take a moment to examine them when the unit is powered off. If the coils seem corroded or damaged, it’s time to bring in a professional to examine the extent of the issue.
If your building isn’t cooling or heating the way it should, take some time to note which rooms the temperature isn’t reaching. If the unit is cooling or heating part of your home, but isn’t reaching others, the issue might be located to the way you’ve sealed your doors and windows. Applying proper sealant can keep the air from escaping.
Maintaining Your HVAC Unit
When the temperature starts to rise or winter sets in, you need your HVAC systems to be working in perfect shape. Don’t wait until something goes wrong — be proactive about the life of your office's AC and heating system by going through a maintenance checklist every few months. Pre-season tune-ups will help prolong the life of your system, lower your energy bill, and help you avoid a serious malfunction during hot or cold weather.
The next time you want to do some hands-on work with your commercial air conditioning system, try one of these maintenance tasks instead.
Clean Out the Filters
Thoroughly examine and clean your filters every few months. When needed, change them out to keep everything running smoothly. This will not only keep your building clean by circulating air, but it will ensure that the system isn’t overworked to provide the heating and cooling you need.
Clean the Evaporator and Condenser Coils
Once or twice a year, take the time to clean the evaporator and condenser coils. When you let the coils become dirty, it can increase energy consumption by up to 30%.
Install a Programmable Thermostat
While some systems will automatically adjust the temperature, others can be adjusted manually. Consider investing in a programmable thermostat which will let you adjust the temperature when needed.
During the times when nobody is in the building, lowering the temperature can help cut your energy bill by at least 10%. In addition, it will keep your unit running at its full potential for longer.
When It’s Time to Call in the Professionals
While troubleshooting and maintenance can help you stay hands-on and proactive about caring for your commercial HVAC system, it can only take you so far. If you notice an issue with your unit, it’s time to call in a professional.
Avoid the hazards of DIY commercial air conditioning repair and call in a qualified service to help you keep your system in working order. You can trust in our expert knowledge, experience, and dedication to bringing you the best HVAC repair possible. Instead of taking the risk of trying it yourself, contact the experts at (254) 836-4304.