What to Do When Your HVAC System Breaks Down

What to Do When Your HVAC System Breaks Down

It's a scorching summer scorcher in Sydney, or a bone-chilling Melbourne winter night. You crank up the air conditioner (or heater) for some sweet relief, only to be met with... silence. No cool air, no warm breeze – just the unsettling hum of disappointment.

A malfunctioning HVAC system in Australia can turn your home from a haven into a downright uncomfortable zone. So, what to do?

Let’s talk about how to tackle a broken HVAC system like a champ.

 Steps to Take When Your HVAC System Breaks Down

A malfunctioning AC on a scorching summer day or a broken heater on a chilly winter night can be a real shocker. But before you start picturing melted popsicles or wearing your winter coat indoors, take a deep breath! In many cases, a simple fix can get your HVAC system back on track. Here's how to be your own HVAC Technician

Safety First:

Safety should always be your top priority. Never attempt to fix electrical components or disassemble unfamiliar parts of the system. If you suspect electrical issues, turn off the power at the breaker box immediately. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Product Safety | ACCC offers excellent resources on electrical safety in the home.

Check the Basics: Don't Let Simple Mistakes Fool You

Sometimes, the problem behind an HVAC repair is a simple oversight. Here's what to check first:

  • Thermostat Settings: Is your thermostat set to "heat" when you need warmth and "cool" when you crave refreshment? It might sound obvious, but a misplaced setting can cause major frustration.

  • Power Supply: Is your unit receiving power? Check the breaker box for tripped switches or blown fuses.

  • Air Filter Frenzy: A clogged air filter can restrict airflow and strain your HVAC system. Check and replace your air filter regularly, especially during peak seasons (summer and winter).

The Power of Reset:

Believe it or not, sometimes all your HVAC system needs is a simple reset. Just like restarting your computer can fix glitches, turning your system off and back on can resolve temporary issues. Turn the unit off completely, wait a few minutes, and then power it back on. Easy as that!

Thermostat Troubles: 

If your thermostat seems to be misbehaving, there could be a few easy fixes:

  • Battery Check: For battery-powered thermostats, a dying battery can cause all sorts of problems. Pop in a fresh one and see if that solves the issue.

  • Connection Check: Is your thermostat securely connected to its base unit? A loose connection can disrupt communication and lead to inconsistent temperatures.

Bonus Tip: Be Prepared – Regular Maintenance is Key!

Just like your car needs regular servicing, your HVAC system also benefits from professional maintenance. Scheduling a check-up at least once a year, ideally before the peak summer and winter seasons, can help prevent breakdowns and extend the lifespan of your system. The Department of the Environment and Energy DCCEEW has resources for finding qualified technicians and maintaining a healthy HVAC system.

When to Call in the Experts: Signs You Need Professional Help

Let's face it, sometimes a little DIY isn't enough. While you've bravely checked the basics, there are situations where calling a qualified HVAC technician is the smartest move. Here's what to watch out for:

  • Strange Noises: Does your HVAC system suddenly sound like clanging, grinding, or screeching? These unusual noises can indicate anything from loose parts to failing components. Don't ignore them – a technician can diagnose the issue and prevent further damage.

  • Water Leaks: Is your HVAC system springing a leak? Water pooling around the unit or dripping from vents is a red flag. This could signal blocked drainage lines, refrigerant leaks, or even a malfunctioning part. Don't risk mould growth or electrical problems – call a professional for a safe and proper fix.

  • Smells: Nobody enjoys a whiff of something unpleasant from their air conditioning system. Musty odours could indicate mould growth, mildew buildup, or even overheated electrical components. A technician can identify the source and take steps to eliminate the odour and ensure your system is safe to operate.

  • Heating and Cooling system: Is your HVAC system struggling to keep up, leaving you uncomfortably hot or cold despite the thermostat settings? This could be due to clogged air filters, low refrigerant levels, malfunctioning parts, or even incorrect system sizing for your home. A qualified technician can diagnose the cause and restore your comfort.

  • Electrical Issues: This is especially important – never attempt to troubleshoot electrical problems yourself! If you notice flickering lights, sparks, burning smells, or anything else that hints at electrical issues with your HVAC system, turn it off at the breaker and call a licensed electrician immediately. Electrical problems can pose a serious safety hazard, so it's crucial to leave it to the professionals.

Thinking Beyond DIY:

Remember, a qualified HVAC technician has the expertise and tools to diagnose and repair complex issues. They can also ensure your system is operating safely and efficiently. Here are some additional resources for finding a reputable HVAC technician in Australia:

Ever considered a career that keeps people comfortable all year round, no matter the scorching Aussie summer or the chilly winter evenings? 

Imagine a career where you can:

  • Become a hero by fixing malfunctioning ac units on scorching days.

  • Ensure families stay warm and cosy during winter with a well-maintained heating system.

  • Troubleshoot problems and keep HVAC systems running smoothly, bringing comfort to homes and businesses.

Building Institute NSW is a trusted provider of qualifications to get you started in this rewarding field. Certificate III in Air Conditioning and Refrigeration trains you with the knowledge and skills to diagnose, service, repair, and install HVAC systems. 

But the Building Institute offers so much more! Perhaps you're interested in the electrical side of things? UEE30820 - Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician could be a perfect fit, giving you the skills to troubleshoot electrical issues that can sometimes affect HVAC systems.

Feeling inspired to join the world of HVAC and keep Australians comfortable year-round? 

Explore Building Institute NSW and take the first step towards a rewarding career!


How often do HVAC systems fail?

Answer: Most HVAC systems will survive between 15 and 25 years, however, this estimate can vary greatly depending on the kind of system and other considerations. Even with regular HVAC maintenance and repairs, even the most efficient boilers, furnaces, heat pumps, and air conditioners will ultimately fail.

How can I obtain air from my HVAC system?

Answer: Slowly open the valve; some water may drop, but all trapped air will be released. When you initially release the valve, you should hear a little hissing sound, which indicates that trapped air is being expelled from the system. When no more air comes out of the valve, seal it entirely.

How Often Should I Change My Air Filter?

Answer: Most air filter manufacturers and HVAC providers recommend replacing your air filter every 90 days, or three months. This might vary depending on where your house is located (e.g., dusty, dry regions), whether you have pets and the age of your system and equipment.

How can I tell when my HVAC was installed?

Answer: Check the condenser nameplate. They are normally located on the huge, metal condenser box that sits outside your house. The most basic approach to determine the age of your device is to look at the upper-right corner of the nameplate for the production date.

How do I repair a clogged HVAC drain?

Answer: Turn off your air conditioner and loosen the screws at the base to remove the drain line from beneath. Then, attach a hose to it and run water through it for a few minutes, or until the water runs clear. This will boost the water pressure in your drains, pushing out any material that has become caught inside.