Emergency HVAC Repairs: What to Do If Your HVAC Fails at the Wrong Time

by Shelley Frost
Young repairman fixing an industrial air conditioning compressor.

Most people aren't built for the pioneer-style life of no heating or cooling, which means you might eventually find yourself in need of an emergency HVAC repair.

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Find out what to do when your system gives up on you at the worst possible time.

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What Do I Do If My Air Conditioner Breaks During Extremely Hot Weather?

Your air conditioner greets you with crisp, cool air on the hottest days — until it breaks down and leaves you sweating it out. Here's what to do on those super-hot days when your AC quits.

Do Some Quick Checks

Sometimes, your AC stops cooling due to a minor issue. Try these troubleshooting tips to see if they help:

  • Check the breaker to make sure it didn't trip, and check the AC disconnect switch, which is usually near the exterior unit.
  • Verify the thermostat is working properly and set to the cooling function.
  • Inspect the filter to see if it's clogged.
  • Look at the coils inside the indoor unit. They can ice over, which stops the system from cooling properly. You can turn off the unit and let the ice thaw.

Keep Cool

If you can keep your home cool enough, you might be able to wait for repairs. Here are some options:

  • Close your window coverings to block warm sunlight. This can help you trap the remaining cool air from the AC in your home.
  • If it cools down enough at night, open the windows to let in the cool air. When it starts warming up in the morning, close them again. 
  • Run ceiling and floor fans to keep the air moving.
  • Use a portable or window AC if you have one available.
  • Stay on the lower level of your home, where it's likely to feel cooler.
  • Turn on the sprinkler or fill up a kiddie pool in the backyard to cool off. 

Decide If You Need Emergency Repairs

You might need emergency repairs if your home heats up quickly and you can't handle it. High temperatures can be especially dangerous for older adults, people with health conditions and young children. An emergency HVAC repair might be necessary if someone in your home fits that description.

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How Much More Will It Cost to Have My Air Conditioner Repaired in an Emergency?

According to HomeGuide, emergency HVAC repair services can cost two or three times the normal rates. Some companies offer more affordable rates, adding $40 to $80 (CAD 55 to CAD 110) on top of normal rates. Emergency repairs could cost $140 to $210 (CAD 192 to CAD 288) per hour for a more affordable company. Higher-priced HVAC pros may charge $400 to $600 (CAD 548 to CAD 823) per hour.

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What Do I Do If My Furnace Breaks During Extremely Cold Weather?

A failing furnace can cause freezing temperatures in your home. Here's what to do if your system breaks down.

Do Some Basic Troubleshooting

Many of the same troubleshooting techniques that you use for an AC also work for a furnace. Check the breaker, look for a turn-off switch near the furnace to make sure it's on and check the thermostat. Make sure the filter isn't clogged.

Call for Emergency HVAC Repair

An emergency HVAC repair for a furnace might be more urgent than your AC to avoid having your pipes freeze. Call around to find an available HVAC company if your troubleshooting fails to reduce your wait time.

Protect Your Pipes

Frozen pipes create an even bigger issue, so keep them as warm as possible. Opening the cabinet below your sinks can let some warm air in, and running a small trickle of water from faucets can keep the water from freezing completely. Heat tape on the pipes can also help, or you can shut off your water until your heat is repaired.

Keep Yourself Warm

Find ways to keep warm until you can get your heat restored. Here are some ideas:

  • Bake some yummy treats and leave the oven door open as it cools.
  • Do laundry and run your dishwasher to generate a little heat.
  • Use space heaters.
  • Layer on clothes and blankets.
  • Turn on your fireplace.

How Much More Will It Cost to Have My Furnace Repaired in an Emergency?

You can expect the cost of an emergency furnace repair to be similar to an AC repair. Some companies might charge double or triple their normal rates, while others might charge less. Calling around to multiple HVAC companies can help you find an affordable option.

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