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Cooling and Ventilation Systems Category: Central Air Conditioners


Central air conditioner does not turn on automatically at all.

Tools / Materials (See Below for Applicability):

  • Screwdriver (or other fastening device as determined by the manufacturer's use of fasteners)

  • Voltage meter

  • Circuit breaker fuse replacement

  • Thermostat replacement

  • Manufacturer's instruction manual for the central air conditioner


There are a number of possible causes for your central air conditioner's failure to turn on automatically at all.

If your central air conditioner does not turn on automatically at all, do the following:

  1. First and foremost, make sure that the thermostat is on the setting of "cool" and that otherwise the thermostat is set to a desired temperature that is below the room temperature.

  2. Next, check that your circuit breaker is turned to "on," and if need be, replace any burned out circuit breaker fuse. A central air conditioner is designed for a 240-volt circuit system specifically for its use.  (See the electrical section.)

  3. As a last preliminary step before taking an in-depth look at and performing work on the air conditioner, be sure that the power switch for the furnace is turned on, that the power switch of the outside condenser of the air conditioner is turned just as well, and that the 240-volt disconnect mechanism usually found near the compressor of the air conditioner is not shut off, but on.

Caution: When dealing with any device that requires electrical power, make sure you take precautions before you work on it, including disconnecting the power.

  1. If the above does not solve the problem, check the interior of the thermostat by unfastening its cover and removing it, using a screwdriver or other fastening device that is appropriate.

  2. Before doing anything else, as a precaution, use a voltage meter to make sure that the wires connected to the thermostat are not live (have no power running through them).  (You should have disconnected the power to the fan from the circuit breaker long ago, if you haven't done so already.)

  3. Upon making sure there is no running power, using a screwdriver, unscrew the wire from the Y terminal of the thermostat.

  4. Then, for this instance of diagnosing the cause of the problem, reconnect the power.

  5. Being very mindful that the power is now on and taking all precautions necessary, grab the insulated part of the aforesaid unscrewed wire and have its un-insulated part touch the R terminal of the thermostat, and maintain this touching position for about


     three minutes.  If during that time the compressor kicks in, this means the thermostat is bad and must be replaced.  A thermostat replacement can be purchased from any home improvement store, appliance store or online.

  6. Alternatively, if the compressor of the air conditioner does not kick in during that approximate three-minute period when the two aforesaid wires are touching each other as noted above, then your air conditioner is in need of specialized repair.

  7. Disconnect the power to your air conditioner again.

  8. Consult your manufacturer's instruction manual for repair options and, if need be, contact a repair technician specializing in central air conditioner repair.

Ed the Handyman


Your Handyman Zone Team


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