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Top 10 Troubleshooting Tips for HVAC Professionals

For an HVAC technician to make the proper diagnosis, they must be skilled and patient. A doctor checks the symptoms of the patient to collect clues about their ailment. Similarly, an HVAC technician uses procedures and equipment to determine what is causing an HVAC system to malfunction.

The principles guiding the troubleshooting steps performed by a technician are universal even if their practice and implementation isn’t. Technicians may vary on the right practice of these skills, but they all believe that diagnostics and troubleshooting are two important skills that every technician should possess. Below, we have listed ten common troubleshooting tips that every HVAC technician should follow.

1.           Observe Carefully

When it comes to troubleshooting HVAC problems, observation is the first step. Get it right and the rest of the job should be easier. If the HVAC system isn’t operating, the technician should start with the electrical supply and then check other mechanical components. If the unit is working but its performance is not up to the mark, then the HVAC technician should determine what is wrong with the system. They should look and understand the problem before they start doing anything.

2.           Think Logically

If there is something wrong with an air conditioning unit, the HVAC technician should first review the refrigeration cycle. If the heating system is causing problems, then the technician should think about how energy is converted from fuel to heat and how the burner ignites to create heat.

3.           Establish a Pattern

Once an HVAC technician has figured out what flow and process works best for them, they should repeat the same every time there is a problem in the HVAC unit. This will streamline the HVAC troubleshooting process and ensure that no step is missed out. Deviating from your pattern can cause problems for you.

4.           Take Help

This help isn’t from a fellow technician or instructor. We recommend that you take assistance from written troubleshooting guides that come with the equipment. Manufacturers want their appliances to function properly, which is why they provide troubleshooting guides with their products. There is no shame in reading a troubleshooting guide even if you know what needs to be done to fix the problem.

5.           Keep Practicing

Practice is the key to success. A technician will only get better through practice as they might encounter different kinds of problems in HVAC systems every time they go in for repairs. It is worth noting that equipment and controls keep on changing, which is why an HVAC technician should always be learning about new things.

6.           Always Take Proper Safety Precautions

Safety should always be the primary concern of an HVAC technician and they should never do something that puts them in harm’s way. Dangers are always lurking in the form of charged capacitors, gas lines, high voltage, confined spaces and combustion gases. An HVAC technician should never hurry or rush through a task; otherwise their life could be in danger.

7.           Start at the Very Beginning

When HVAC technicians arrive at a call of a homeowner, they already have some ideas about what could be wrong with the unit. This type of thinking can create problems in diagnosis and make it hard for a technician to figure out what is actually wrong with the appliance. Therefore, a technician should always start with an open mind and look at each individual component. They should observe the symptoms to figure out what might be wrong with the HVAC system.

8.           Make Sure to Check the Thermostat

Technicians often assume that the homeowner knows how to properly operate the thermostat, but this isn’t always the case. Therefore, instead of going past the control unit on the wall and heading straight into the hardware of the equipment, an HVAC technician should check the thermostat. It is possible that improperly set operating parameters or a pre-existing program is causing the HVAC unit to work inefficiently. Checking the thermostat can save you and the homeowner from a lot of trouble.

9.           Look and Listen

Use the power of your senses to diagnose the HVAC system. What do you hear? Are there strange noises or smells coming from the HVAC unit? Do you see anything strange about the unit? Using your senses can help you in the early stages of HVAC troubleshooting and reduce the overall time required to figure out what is wrong with the HVAC system.

10.      Determine if It Is Electrical or Mechanical

Most HVAC system problems are divided into two categories – electrical or mechanical. Understanding whether the problem is electrical or mechanical can help HVAC technicians choose the right tools for the job as well as determine what’s causing the equipment to malfunction.

For instance, a digital multi-meter will help you diagnose a bad contractor or transformer but it won’t allow you to diagnose low gas pressure or a broken fan blade. Knowing the differences and being equipped with the right tools for the job are keys to success.

Parting Words

Not all HVAC technicians are the same. Some are better than others and if you want to be the best at what you do, then follow the troubleshooting tips we have discussed above. By doing so, you should be able to quickly and effectively figure out what is wrong with an HVAC system. If you don’t follow our recommendations and don’t have a thermal imaging camera, you might find it hard to determine what is causing an HVAC system to malfunction.

We hope you find the tips listed above useful. In case something is unclear or if you have any questions to ask from us, feel free to reach out.


About the Author Rob Carson

I work in commercial construction, in Dallas, TX.

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