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Why Is My AC Not Turning On? Troubleshooting Tips and Solutions

Is there anything more frustrating on a hot summer day than realizing your air conditioner isn’t working?

You go to switch it on and… nothing happens. It’s a surprisingly common issue.

So, why is your AC not turning on?

There could be several reasons, and we’re here to help you troubleshoot.

A common culprit behind your AC not powering on could be related to your thermostat. You might want to ensure it’s switched on, set to the cooling mode, and the set temperature is a bit lower than your home’s current temperature.

Occasionally, even something as simple as replacing drained batteries can solve the problem.

Why is My AC Not Turning On? – Brief Overview

Your AC might not be turning on for a variety of reasons.

These could range from simple issues like incorrect thermostat settings or depleted batteries to more serious problems like refrigerant leaks, faulty capacitors or motors, and even circuit breaker complications.

Regular maintenance can prevent some of these issues, but persistent or complex problems may require professional help.

Top 7 Reasons Why Your AC Isn’t Powering On:

Let’s delve a little deeper into the various reasons that might be causing your AC unit to remain off.

1. Power Issues:

An unexpected power interruption can prevent your AC from turning on. Check if other appliances are working to rule out a power outage.

If it’s only your AC that’s not receiving power, it could be due to various reasons, including a tripped circuit breaker, a blown fuse, or even a faulty power switch.

Each of these issues requires a different solution. For instance, replacing a fuse, resetting the circuit breaker, or repairing the power switch.

2. Circuit Breaker Complications:

The role of a circuit breaker is to protect your home’s electrical circuits from damage caused by overcurrents.

When your AC unit draws too much current, the circuit breaker trips as a safety measure. Resetting the breaker might solve the issue temporarily.

However, if the breaker trips repeatedly, it indicates a deeper electrical issue that should be addressed immediately.

3. Faulty Capacitor or Motor:

Capacitors store and supply the energy needed to start the motor in your AC unit. If the capacitor fails, the motor will not start; consequently, your AC will not turn on.

Similarly, if the motor itself is defective, the same problem will occur. If you hear a buzzing noise coming from your AC unit but it’s not turning on, this might indicate a faulty capacitor or motor.

In such cases, seek professional assistance for a replacement.

4. Refrigerant Leaks:

Refrigerant is the substance that your AC uses to remove heat and humidity from the air. 

When there’s a leak, the level of refrigerant in the system drops, which can lead to the AC not turning on.

Leaks can occur due to regular wear and tear, physical damage, or poor installation.

Besides preventing your AC from turning on, refrigerant leaks can decrease your unit’s efficiency and result in higher energy bills.

5. Dirty Air Filter:

The air filter in your AC system ensures that only clean air enters the system. Over time, these filters can get clogged with dust and debris, leading to restricted airflow.

This can cause your AC unit to overheat and shut down as a preventative measure against damage.

Therefore, regular cleaning or replacing your air filter can help maintain the health of your AC system.

6. Evaporator Coil Issues:

Your AC’s evaporator coil plays a crucial role in cooling your home by absorbing heat from the air.

When the coil is dirty or damaged, it can’t absorb heat effectively, causing your AC to malfunction or not turn on.

Regular cleaning and professional maintenance can prevent coil-related issues, ensuring your AC unit works effectively.

7. Drainage Problems:

Your AC unit not only cools the air but also removes excess moisture, which it drains away.

If the drain line becomes clogged, it can trigger a safety switch that shuts off your AC to prevent water damage.

Regularly checking and cleaning your AC’s drainage system can prevent clogging and keep your AC running smoothly.

Fixes and Troubleshooting: Getting Your AC Back to Work

Once we’ve identified the common reasons for AC malfunctions, we can explore potential fixes.

Resetting Your AC Unit:

Resetting your AC unit is the simplest troubleshooting step you can take. Unplug your AC, wait a few minutes, then plug it back in and try turning it on.

Sometimes, a simple reset is all it takes to clear minor system glitches.

Addressing Circuit Breaker Problems:

If your circuit breaker keeps tripping, it could be due to an electrical overload.

In such cases, you might need a professional electrician to inspect your home’s wiring and possibly upgrade your electrical panel to handle the load.

Replacing Capacitor or Motor:

Replacing a faulty capacitor or motor is a job for professionals. This is because both these parts play an integral role in your AC’s operation, and improper handling could lead to further damage or potential injury.

Sealing Refrigerant Leaks:

A refrigerant leak is a serious issue that can cause environmental harm and damage your AC unit.

Therefore, it’s best to let HVAC professionals inspect and repair your system if you suspect a leak.

Cleaning or Replacing Air Filters:

Cleaning or replacing your air filters every 1-3 months is an easy maintenance task that can prevent many AC issues.

Not only does it help your AC function properly, but it also improves indoor air quality and reduces energy costs.

Repairing Evaporator Coils:

Repairing evaporator coils is a technical task that requires HVAC expertise. Therefore, if you’re facing coil issues, it’s best to rely on professional services.

Regular maintenance can prevent these issues, ensuring your AC runs efficiently throughout its lifespan.

Clearing Drainage Blockages:

A blocked drainage line can cause your AC to shut down. Therefore, regularly check your AC’s drain line for clogs.

If you notice water pooling around your AC unit, this is a clear sign that the drain line might be blocked, and it’s time to call in professionals for a thorough cleaning.

When to Seek Professional Help?

In an ideal world, every problem could be solved with a quick DIY fix. Unfortunately, AC problems don’t always fall into this category.

While some issues can be tackled at home, others necessitate the skills and knowledge of a trained professional:

Persistent Issues:

If your AC isn’t turning on despite checking all the common issues, it’s time to call in a professional. Persistent issues often indicate deeper, more complex problems that require professional diagnostic tools and expertise.

Frequent Circuit Breaker Tripping:

If your circuit breaker keeps tripping despite resetting it, there could be a more serious electrical problem at play. This is a potential fire hazard, so seeking professional help is crucial.

Refrigerant Leaks:

If you suspect a refrigerant leak, you should call a professional HVAC technician right away. Handling refrigerants requires specialized training due to their potential environmental and health risks.

AC Producing Strange Noises or Smells:

Unusual noises or smells coming from your AC unit could indicate serious issues, such as motor failure or electrical problems. These issues are best left to professionals.

Preventative Measures: Avoiding Future AC Troubles

Prevention is always better than a cure, especially when it comes to HVAC systems.

Regular preventative maintenance can help you avoid many of the common AC issues that can lead to your system not turning on:

Regular AC Maintenance:

Have your AC unit professionally serviced at least once a year.

This will ensure that all parts are in good working order and can help detect potential issues before they turn into costly repairs.

Regularly Replace or Clean Air Filters:

Dirty or clogged air filters can cause your AC unit to work harder than necessary, leading to potential damage.

Replacing or cleaning your air filters every 1-3 months can help your AC function optimally and improve the air quality in your home.

Clean the Condenser Coils:

Dirty condenser coils can reduce your AC’s ability to cool your home, forcing it to work harder and increasing wear and tear.

Regularly cleaning the condenser coils, ideally once a year, can help your AC operate efficiently.

Check the Drain Line:

Regularly checking your AC’s drain line for clogs can prevent water damage and the potential growth of mold or mildew.

By incorporating these preventative measures into your regular home maintenance routine, you can keep your AC running efficiently and avoid the stress of dealing with a malfunctioning system when you need it the most.

In service since 2016, Browns Heating & Cooling has been extending AC services of exceptional quality to Chicago and the surrounding areas. Offering trustworthy advice and reasonably priced services, our factory-trained, EPA-certified technicians are just a call away.

Contact us at (708) 536-8134 or secure your appointment today.

Read detailed article on Other most common issues with air conditioners:


Understanding why your AC isn’t turning on is the first step toward a solution. While some issues can be fixed with basic troubleshooting, others require professional intervention.

By recognizing the signs and knowing when to call a professional, you can save both time and money.

Moreover, taking proactive steps like regular maintenance can help prevent many issues and extend your AC’s lifespan.

Remember, staying cool and comfortable is not just about fixing problems as they arise, but also about preventing them from happening in the first place.


Why is my AC unit making a buzzing noise but not turning on?

A buzzing noise from your AC unit could indicate a problem with the capacitor or motor. These parts are essential for your AC’s operation, and if they’re faulty, your AC might not turn on. This isn’t a DIY fix and requires a professional.

What should I do if my AC isn’t turning on after a power outage?

First, check if other appliances are working to ensure that the power is back on. If your AC still isn’t turning on, it could be due to a tripped circuit breaker, which can be reset. If resetting doesn’t work or the breaker keeps tripping, contact a professional.

Why does my AC unit keep turning off and on by itself?

Your AC unit could be turning off and on by itself due to a problem known as short cycling. This could be caused by an oversized AC, a clogged air filter, or even a refrigerant leak. Regular maintenance can help identify and fix these issues.

How often should I clean or replace my AC air filter to prevent my AC from not turning on?

To keep your AC unit working efficiently and to prevent potential issues, it’s generally recommended to clean or replace your air filter every 1-3 months. This can vary depending on usage, air quality, and the specific filter type. Regularly changing the air filter can help prevent airflow restrictions that could cause your AC to shut down.

How can I prevent drainage issues that stop my AC from turning on?

Prevent drainage issues by regularly checking your AC’s drain line for clogs and blockages. This should ideally be done before the cooling season begins and at regular intervals. Also, be alert for signs of a drainage problem, such as water pooling around your AC unit. If you find a blockage, a wet-dry vacuum can often clear it, but for persistent or serious issues, professional help may be needed.