Believe it or not, the evaporator coils inside the AHU (Air Handling Unit) are freezing. You may notice the refrigerant lines on the condenser or at the AHU are frozen with ice build-up. The frost or ice builds up on the evaporator coils and blocks air flow (low air flow and no cooling are a sign of a low charge). A low refrigerant charge will cause the evaporator coil to operate at or below freezing. Since the coil typically operates below the dew point, it draws condensation out of the air. When the evaporator coil begins operating below freezing all this condensation freezes to the evaporator coil and the unit stops cooling.
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How often you should clean your air ducts depends on your situation. If you or someone in the home has asthma or is acutely allergic to certain airborne materials or pollen, regular duct cleaning may be helpful. The Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t have an official position on the necessity of air duct cleaning unless the ducts have been contaminated by rodents, insects or mold, or you are aware of particles blowing out through the vents. The EPA recommends you have your air ducts cleaned on an as-needed basis. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) suggests having air ducts cleaned every three to five years.
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The contactor (relay) and start/run capacitor(s) (see illustration below) fail most often and are inexpensive. So it’s a safe bet to buy and install those parts right away, especially if your air conditioning service unit is older than five years. The condenser fan motor can also fail, but it runs about $150 — hold off buying that unless you’re sure that’s the culprit.