How To Identify A Failing Compressor In Your Central Air Conditioning System

Your air conditioner has kept your home cool and comfortable for the past several summer seasons. However, you're now starting to experience several problems with your air conditioning system that you suspect are being caused by your compressor. Although, your lack of formal knowledge pertaining to cooling systems has kept you second guessing. If your air conditioner is suffering from these problems, then you can be certain your compressor needs to be repaired or replaced.

How Your Compressor Works

Your compressor works in tandem with your unit's condenser. As refrigerant is pumped through your air conditioning system, your compressor pressurizes the refrigerant. While under pressure, your refrigerant's temperature rises—which may seem counterproductive. However, if your refrigerant is not pressurized and heated, then your evaporator coil and several other components of your air conditioner can freeze, crack, and leak refrigerant.

Hard Starts

Similarly to your car or truck, your air conditioning unit can suffer from hard starts. A hard start occurs when your outdoor unit rumbles violently and creates excessive noise upon activation.

There are a number of reasons why your system may be hard starting—and they all occur as the result of a compressor problem. The most common reason for hard starts is a seized or failing compressor motor. Your compressor's motor is tasked with pumping the piston that pressurizes your refrigerant. When this motor begins to fail, your outdoor unit will produce a constant humming noise while your system is active.

If your system is controlled by a programmable thermostat, then another problem that may be causing your hard starting issues is high pressure. After your cooling system has been active for a period of time, pressure accumulates inside your compressor and refrigerant lines. This increased pressure throughout your system can make it extremely difficult for an aging compressor to power back on if the system is shut off and reactivated by your thermostat.

Depending on the condition of your compressor's components, your system may fail to produce cool air if your compressor is unable to start while your system is pressurized. One way to work around this issue is to manually deactivate your system until its internal pressure is alleviated. However, this is not a permanent solution—your compressor will still require repair or replacement to fix this issue.

Tripped Circuits or Blown Fuses

The heat produced by your compressor can cause serious damage to its wiring over the course of several years. When the wiring inside your compressor becomes warped, burnt, or completely destroyed, its shielding will fail. As a result, frayed wiring will make contact with metal components inside your compressor and increase the resistance (or ohm rating) of the wiring.

When this happens, the circuit breaker or fuse that is responsible for handling the electrical load of your air conditioning system will be tripped or blown, respectively. This problem can be fixed by repairing the wire connections inside your compressor.

However, if your compressor has been tripping your circuit breakers or blowing your fuses multiple times, then it's likely the wiring and electrical connections inside your compressor have fallen beyond the point of repair. The current flowing through your compressor wiring can cause the wiring to burn or fuse with metal components inside your compressor.

If your system is suffering from these symptoms, then don't let them continue. If you continue using your air conditioner while these problems are present, you risk causing further damage to your cooling system—which will only increase your repair costs. Hire your local HVAC technician as soon as these problems arise to ensure that you can minimize your repair costs and have your system working flawlessly in time for the upcoming summer heat waves.

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