In addition to the information below, see these two articles for the general care and maintenance of your air conditioner: Preparing Your Air Conditioner for Summer and How to Replace Furnace & AC Filters. Most noteworthy, you should replace the filters at least twice a year, before the heating and cooling seasons. For information on furnace problems, please see Furnace Not Working.
Before opening the electrical cover on the A/C unit, be sure to shut off all power to the compressor unit and the indoor furnace or air handler, and verify that it is off. Note that this may mean shutting off a circuit breaker that serves the furnace and air handler, and then, near the compressor, pulling out the disconnect block (or shutting off the 220-volt power) to the outdoor compressor.
When central air conditioning service fails during a heat spell, you may have to wait days for an HVAC repair technician or a ac contractor to show up, and you’ll probably pay at least several hundred for the repair. But if you’re comfortable working around electricity and are willing to spend about $50 on parts, you can probably repair your air conditioning service yourself in about two hours and save about $225 on parts markup and labor.
To reset a gas furnace, start by making sure the pilot light has been extinguished. Next, turn down the room thermostat to its coldest setting, and cut the furnace's power from your home's circuit breaker. Cut the main gas supply to the furnace, but make sure that the gas line that leads to the furnace pilot is on. Light a match, and use it to ignite the jet of the furnace's pilot flame. Then restore the furnace power and main gas supply, and press and hold the furnace reset button for roughly half a minute.
Central home air conditioner service systems consist of two major components: a condensing unit that sits outside your house, and the evaporator coil (often referred to as an A-coil) that sits in the plenum of your furnace or air handler. The refrigerant in the A-coil picks up the heat from your home and moves it to the outdoor condensing unit. The condensing unit fan blows outside air through the condensing coil to remove the heat. The condensing unit houses the three parts replaceable by a DIYer: the contactor, the start/run capacitor(s) and the condenser fan motor. The condensing unit also houses the compressor, but only a pro can replace that. The A-coil has no parts that can be serviced by a DIYer.
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Ductwork pinging or popping. If you hear a pinging or popping sound coming from metal ductwork, this may be caused by thermal expansion or by air blowing past a loose flap of metal. Track along the duct runs, listening for the sound. If you find it, make a small dent in the sheet metal to provide a more rigid surface that’s less likely to move as it heats and cools.
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A furnace flame sensor is a device that's found in the burner assembly of your home's furnace. This thin metal rod sits directly facing the furnace's flame stream, and it tells the furnace whether ignition has occurred once the gas valve has been opened. If the gas valve has been opened and the sensor fails to detect a flame, the furnace will automatically shut down.
Cleaning the debris that builds up on your filters will aid with the flow of air. When your air filter is clogged, your air handler must work harder to compensate for the blockage of air flow. In addition to driving up your utility bill, the reduced air flow through your heating and cooling system can cause your heat exchanger to overheat and shut off too quickly.    

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