An AC capacitor is an important part of an air conditioner unit. If it fails, the whole system will not work. We will discuss what a capacitor is, how it works, and how our technicians go about replacing it.
What Is an AC Capacitor?
An AC capacitor is a device that helps to store and release electric energy in an air conditioning system. The capacitor is connected to the compressor, the heart of the AC unit. When the AC is turned on, the capacitor stores energy in its electric field. As the compressor runs, it draws energy from the capacitor to help it start and run smoothly.
AC capacitors are critical components that can cause the entire HVAC system to shut down. If an alternating current capacitor fails, it must be repaired. When this happens, the air conditioner should keep the area cool. This causes your air conditioner to wear out faster and consume more electricity than it should.
Despite their resemblance to batteries, capacitors are not batteries, contrary to popular belief. Capacitors must be connected to the existing cables of the air conditioning system. Because AC capacitors carry high voltages, they are extremely dangerous. They can cause damage if they’re handled incorrectly or if they’re even touched.
What Does an Air Conditioner Capacitor Do?
An air conditioner capacitor is responsible for supplying power to the compressor and fans. The capacitor stores electricity so that it can be released in a controlled manner. This helps the compressor start up quickly without putting too much strain on the system.
The capacitor also helps out the electrical current as it flows through the system. If the current is not regulated, it will cause the compressor and fans to operate erratically. This could lead to premature failure of these components.
Capacitors and temporary batteries are methods of ensuring a steady flow of electricity. The capacitance of an AC capacitor is measured in microvolts, the unit of measurement for microfarads. The voltage of the capacitor is proportional to the current flowing through it. A higher voltage allows a greater amount of current to flow. Furthermore, it absorbs and stores electrical energy, allowing the air conditioner to operate efficiently and consistently.
Types of AC Capacitors
Capacitors are available in various sizes and are typically used to start the other components of an HVAC system. Other than the obvious start and run capacitors, there are numerous other capacitors.
Unlike start capacitors, run capacitors are utilized in fans, blower motors, and compressors. Let’s examine the three most popular types of AC capacitors and a few particularly intriguing variations.
1. Single-run capacitor: The single-run capacitor is a simple device with two terminals. It’s used in small HVAC systems and furnaces, where it’ll power one motor at a time with just enough voltage for its function.
2. Start capacitor: The AC start capacitor has the duty of quickly getting your air conditioner up and running, but it’s not just found on heat pumps or refrigerators. There are two styles: one with terminals at each end that plugs into a regular outlet and another where you need an additional cord for power.
3. Dual-run capacitor: Dual-run capacitors are two different types of energy storage in one. They’re easy to identify because they have three terminals on top, like normal batteries. However, they have an extra set that clicks into place when connected by jump wires or power cords for fans, motor drives, ceilings lights, and coils. Dual-run capacitors provide backup services for premium systems such as air conditioning units, refrigerators, washing machines, ovens, freezers, cooktops, microwaves, and ovens.
Signs of a Failing Air Conditioner Capacitor
Several warning signs indicate your capacitor is going bad or needs to be replaced.
1. Won’t Turn On: If your system isn’t starting when you turn it on, it could be a sign that the capacitor is failing. If the system is having trouble starting up, it could be due to several reasons, but a failing capacitor is one of them.
2. Doesn’t Cool Properly: Another warning sign is if your system is running but not cooling properly. This could be because the compressor isn’t getting enough power, which a failing capacitor can cause.
3. Higher Energy Bills: If you notice your energy bills increasing, this could also be a sign that your capacitor is failing. A failing capacitor can cause your system to work harder, which will use more energy and cause your bills to go up.
4. Buzzing Noises: If you hear a buzzing noise from your air conditioner, this could also be a sign that the capacitor is failing. A failing capacitor can cause the compressor and fans to operate erratically, creating a buzzing noise.
What Causes an Air Conditioner Capacitor to Fail?
A few things can cause an air conditioner capacitor to fail.
1. Age: Over time, capacitors can dry out and become less effective. This is why it’s important to have your air conditioner regularly serviced to catch any potential problems early.
2. Voltage fluctuations: If the voltage in your home fluctuates, it can cause the capacitor to fail. It’s important to have a surge protector for your air conditioner.
3. Overheating: If the capacitor overheats, it can fail. Make sure that there is plenty of airflow around the air conditioner.
4. Damaged parts: If any parts in your air conditioner are damaged, it can cause the capacitor to fail.
Replacing an AC Capacitor
If you think your capacitor might be failing, it’s important to have it replaced as soon as possible. If you’re not comfortable replacing the capacitor yourself, you can hire a professional to do it for you. Our technicians follow the process below.
1. Find the right capacitor to replace it: We always replace the capacitor with one that has the same voltage and capacitance. It’s important to know the brand and model of your air conditioner to find the correct capacitor. This information is directly printed on the capacitor.
2. Turn off your air conditioner before attempting repairs: Even though it may seem obvious, this is a crucial point to consider. Working with high-voltage equipment is hazardous if the proper precautions are not taken.
3. Discharge the capacitor: The capacitor is a crucial component of your air conditioner. It stores energy that will be used when the unit needs it, so we discharge this stored-up power before handling or after disposal to avoid causing injuries. To keep you and your family safe, we always wear proper safety equipment while doing so too.
4. Take notes: As we remove the old capacitor, we take pictures or note the wires’ orientation and connections. This will ensure we put the new capacitor in correctly.
5. Variations in each capacitor: If you have the same type of capacitor as your old one, this won’t be much of an issue. However, some capacitors have different labels for their connections, which must attach in specific places. Therefore, we always make sure they match up before connecting them back.
An air conditioner capacitor is a crucial component of your AC unit. If it fails, it can cause several problems. If you think your capacitor might be failing, it’s important to have it replaced as soon as possible by a professional. These precautions will help ensure that your AC unit runs smoothly and efficiently for years.
If you have questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact our team at Fahnestock Plumbing, HVAC and Electric in Wichita. We would be happy to help. We provide heating, cooling, electrical, and plumbing services.