How to Fix an Air Conditioner When It Gives You an E1 Code

When you see an E1 error code on your air conditioner, it generally denotes a problem with the controls--but the specific meaning depends on the brand. In many cases, the code is a reminder to replace the air filter, and you can clear it by cleaning the filter or doing a reset, which usually involves little more than unplugging the unit and plugging it back in. Other causes for an E1 error code include loose internal connections, a communication problem between the indoor and outdoor parts of the unit, and a faulty control panel. If you're handy with electronics, you may be able to fix these problems, but if not, it's time to call a pro.

An array of air conditioners.
credit: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Air conditioners may look the same, but the error codes they display depend on the manufacturer.

Check the Manual

Before attempting to clear an E1 error code using a generic procedure, it's a good idea to check the manual for your model. The error codes should be listed in the back of the manual in the troubleshooting section. If you're like most homeowners, and you lost the manual long ago, you can usually find it online on the manufacturer's website. No luck? Try entering your model number in a search field along with the term "manual." This will probably lead you to a website that maintains a database of appliance manuals.

Generic Procedures for Clearing an E1 Error

When you see the E1 error code and you don't have the manual to tell you what it means, you can try a few simple procedures to make it disappear. These procedures won't harm the air conditioner, and some, such as cleaning the air filter, are things you should do on a regular basis anyway.

Clean the Air Filter: If the E1 error code appeared as a reminder to clean the air filter, turn off the unit, and then open the front panel and remove the filter. Clean it with soap and water and let it dry before replacing it. If you can't remove all the dirt and grease it has collected, it's time to replace it.

Check All the Buttons: The E1 error code sometimes means that one of the control buttons is stuck, particularly on Haier models. Press all the buttons. If you find one that is sticking, free it, and the error code should disappear.

Reset the Control Panel: Like a computer's memory chip or a DSL modem, an air conditioner control panel gets corrupted by continuous use and has to be reset. For GE models, as well as others, all you have to do is unplug the unit, leave it unplugged for at least 1 minute, and plug it back in.

Do a Hard Reset: Sharp air conditioners are among those designed to display the E1 error code after 720 hours of use. It's a reminder to clean the air filter, but cleaning the filter doesn't reset the memory. To do this, you may have to follow this procedure after you've cleaned the filter:

  1. Turn off the air conditioner and unplug it.
  2. Hold down the power button, and keep it depressed while you or someone else plugs it back in. Keep the button depressed while the fan and condenser cycle run briefly and cycle off again. At the end of this sequence, you'll hear a beep, and at this point, you can release the button.
  3. Unplug the air conditioner again and plug it back in. It should now work normally.

Check the Control Panel Connections: One of the purposes of the E1 error code is to alert you when there's a problem with the control panel. Unplug the unit and locate the control panel (you may need the manual to do this); look for signs of charred or melted plastic. If you see any, replace the control panel. If the panel appears in good condition, disconnect all the leads and plug them back in to ensure they are properly connected.

E1 Errors on Two-Part Units May Require Professional Service

If you've run through the list of generic procedures to clear the E1 code on your two-part unit with no success, it's probably time to call a pro. The E1 code may signal a communication issue between the indoor unit and the fan/condenser unit, which is outside. Diagnosing this requires specialty tools and knowledge of HVAC wiring that few homeowners possess.

On window, portable and two-part units, a malfunction of the thermistor, which controls the thermostat, can also cause an E1 error. This repair is also best left to a pro, who can test it to make sure it's what is causing the problem.