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Is a DIY Air Conditioner Repair a Bad Idea?

Generally speaking, completing a DIY project isn’t a bad idea, particularly when hiring a professional is simply beyond your means. Tackling a DIY project with more enthusiasm than preparation can often be a recipe for disaster.

When it comes to air conditioner repair, it might seem tempting to take on the job yourself. After all, residential air conditioning units are easy to access and their size is anything but intimidating. The fact of the matter is air conditioning systems are quite complex, something that makes DIY repair a little risky. Even if you aren’t distracted by complexity, there are other reasons why you ought to leave air conditioner installation and service to the professionals.

You Might Save Some Money, But You’ll Pay For it With Your Time

Working with complex components takes a fair amount of research and homework on your part. Repairing your faulty unit yourself might save you a few hundred dollars, but there are three inherent problems when doing so:​

Opportunity cost. What is your time worth? Opportunity cost is the loss associated with choosing one option over another. For example, if you take a day off to make the repairs yourself rather than hiring a technician (who might be able to complete the repair in one or two hours) you might be giving up more than what professional repair technician might charge. ​

You might make things worse. Even if you’re a savvy DIYer, if you’re unfamiliar with the components, there’s a very real risk that you might exacerbate a problem or introduce a new one – further increasing the time you inevitably sink into making repairs or increasing the cost of hiring a professional.​

Do you own the right tools? Depending on the task, the tools that you’ll need to make the repair aren’t ones you’ll necessarily find in your toolbox. Air conditioner installation and repair is a complicated trade and therefore requires specific (and often expensive) tools to do the job properly.

Are You Still Determined to Do the Work On Your Own? Here Are a Few Tips

If your time or money isn’t a factor (as might be the case if you’re retired or employed as a property manager and it’s cost effective for you to do minor repairs on your own) there are a number of things you can do before you consider enlisting the help of a professional:

Change Your Filter Regularly
Completing simple maintenance tasks will not only help your AC unit continue to perform well, it can help you avoid a costly repair bill. If your unit’s filter is clogged, there will be a decrease in cooling efficiency and your unit might even ice up.

If your air conditioner does ice up, you can melt it simply by turning the system off and
running the fan.

Make Sure Your Air Conditioner is Clean
If there’s visible debris on the fan blades on within the unit itself, it could limit the performance of the unit and erroneously lead you to believe that a more complicated repair is needed. By removing the grate and carefully cleaning the fan blades and interior of the unit, you should experience a noticeably improved performance. Just make sure to cut the power to the unit first.

Straightening the Condenser Fins
Bent or damaged condenser fins can also cause a drop in cooling performance as the quantity of air being drawn into the system is reduced. You can pick up a condenser fin comb at just about any hardware store (it’ll cost approximately $10), which you can then use on your AC unit. Take note that condenser fins are fragile, and you’ll need to exercise caution when straightening them.

Consider Installing a Ductless AC Unit
If you want to avoid complex systems altogether, you might consider a ductless air conditioner. Both installation and service of these units can be completed by the end consumer, and are virtually plug and play. Some systems even offer portability, meaning that you can disconnect it and install it in another location if needed.

At the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong with taking on AC repair on your own as long as you’ve equipped yourself enough knowledge to get the job done and you’ve got a reasonable understanding of what your limitations are. Though you might be motivated financially to work on your AC unit yourself, it’s important to remember that there’s simply no substitution for the experience of a professional.

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