At Fahnestock HVAC, we understand just how frustrating it can be if your home’s air conditioning isn’t working properly. With summer temperatures in Wichita regularly reaching into the upper 90s or triple digits, it can take just a few hours without sufficient air conditioning before the heat and humidity inside your home become unbearable.
If your air conditioner won’t turn on or doesn’t sufficiently cool your home, there is a good chance that the issue is related to a problem with the AC compressor outside your home. The compressor is the primary component of your AC system, and it is responsible for supplying cold refrigerant to evaporator coils. If the compressor isn’t working properly, the system won’t be able to sufficiently absorb heat from inside your home, and you can quickly start to swelter. With this in mind, here is a guide to some of the most common compressor issues, what causes them, and how to prevent them.
If your compressor fails to turn on, it is most likely due to an electrical issue. In some cases, the problem is as simple as a power surge that trips the circuit breaker controlling your AC compressor, and this is always the first thing you should check if your AC won’t turn on. The issue could also be something as simple as the batteries inside your thermostat being dead or not having enough charge to signal the unit to turn on. The problem could also be caused by loose or damaged wires inside the compressor, and this is something that requires a professional HVAC technician to diagnose and repair.
Dirty Condenser Coils
One of the most common reasons that your compressor won’t turn on or shuts off almost immediately after turning on is that the condenser coils inside the compressor are dirty. Most AC units have an automatic shut-off that is triggered if the refrigerant pressure becomes too high or too low in order to prevent damaging the unit or burning out the compressor motor.
When the condenser coils become too dirty, it prevents them from being able to properly release the heat absorbed from inside the home. This can result in the pressure inside the refrigerant lines getting too high, so the system automatically shuts off. This is one of the many reasons that you should always have your AC system professionally maintained every spring as this service includes inspecting and cleaning the condenser coils.
Dirt and Debris Clogging the Compressor
The same issues can also occur if dirt and debris become lodged in the screens surrounding the compressor. When this happens, the heat cannot escape from the unit, and it can quickly overheat and shut off. This same issue could also cause the compressor and the evaporator coils inside the home to freeze. Should this happen, your only option is to shut off the system and wait for everything to thaw. Otherwise, you are likely to burn out the compressor motor if you try to use the system when it is frozen.
This is one thing that is fairly easy to check and fix on your own. All you need to do is remove the panels on the outside of the compressor and make sure that the areas on the outside of the unit aren’t filled with leaves, dust, and other debris.
Your compressor can also start to work poorly or not at all simply because of its components not having enough lubricant. Like many other issues, it could cause the compressor to overheat and either shut off or burn out the motor. This is another situation that can easily be avoided with annual AC maintenance.
Most of the above issues can lead to the compressor overheating, but there are several other potential problems that can also make it overheat or freeze up. Your compressor is far more likely to overheat if it is in an area where it is exposed to constant sunlight or if it doesn’t have sufficient space around it to allow for adequate ventilation. The compressor can also overheat if the temperature inside your house is allowed to rise too high before you turn the AC on. Even the best air conditioner will struggle to keep up if the temperature in the home rises into the upper 70s or low 80s.
Not Enough Refrigerant in the System
Another common problem is that there is not enough refrigerant in the system. If everything is working properly, you should never have to worry about the refrigerant level since it is a closed system. However, leaks can develop in the refrigerant lines or in the evaporator or condenser coil over time. When this happens, the system will eventually not have enough refrigerant to work properly. This results in too little pressure inside the system, which will trigger the compressor’s automatic shut-off switch. In this situation, you will need to have an HVAC technician inspect your entire system to pinpoint and repair the leak and then add more refrigerant to the system.
Too Much Refrigerant
Similar issues can also occur if the system has too much refrigerant. Luckily, the only real way this can happen is if you allow someone to work on your AC who doesn’t have the proper training to know what they’re doing. This is why you should only ever allow a NATE-certified HVAC technician to perform any work on your AC system.
Faulty or Burned Out Fan Motor
The fan motor inside the compressor unit typically won’t last as long as the unit itself for one reason or another. Faulty or burned-out fan motors are an especially common problem on units that are 10 or more years old, and this problem will prevent the compressor from turning on. Luckily, replacing the fan motor is usually a fairly quick and easy job for an HVAC technician.
Burned Out Compressor Motor
Your air conditioning issues could also be because your compressor motor overheated and burned out. This can potentially be caused by many of the different issues that we’ve already discussed. Unfortunately, a burned-out compressor motor means that you will need to replace the entire compressor unit, which will likely cost you at least a few thousand dollars.
AC compressors typically have a maximum lifespan of around 10 to 15 years and sometimes even less than this in hotter, more humid climates. The fact is that your compressor will eventually fail and need to be replaced. However, you can potentially extend the lifespan of your unit by making sure to have it inspected and maintained regularly. Regular inspections can also increase the efficiency of your system to ensure that you stay cool without sky-high energy bills.
If you’re having any issues with your AC system, the pros at Fahnestock HVAC can quickly get it up and running again. We repair all makes and models of air conditioners and heating equipment, and our team of NATE-certified technicians can also handle all of your HVAC maintenance needs. Our team also specializes in residential electrical and plumbing systems. We have been proudly serving customers throughout the Wichita area since 1946, so give us a call to see what makes us the best home service company in the area.