It’s warm out. Really warm out. And you look forward to coming inside the house to some nice, cool, refreshing… uh oh. The air conditioning that was working perfectly when you left the house this morning is now blowing no cool air at all.
While the effectiveness of your air conditioner depends upon many factors, the part of the unit professionals usually look at first is the air conditioning compressor.
What is an Air Conditioning Compressor?
If you’ve gone this long without having to learn about an air conditioner’s compressor, consider yourself lucky! But even if you don’t know about it, you’re also in good shape: it’s really quite simple when you break it down (no pun intended).
Related: Central Air Conditioning Home Warranties
Types of Air Conditioning Compressors
When it comes to compressors that are used in air conditioning systems, it all comes down to the following varieties:
1. A Rotary Compressor, which is most often found in window units and some central AC units. Having been around for quite some time, they are inexpensive and durable.
2. A Reciprocating Compressor is the most common in lower efficiency split air conditioners. They are relatively inexpensive but not as durable.
3. A Scroll Compressor is the most common type in higher efficiency equipment. They are very durable and efficient but are typically more expensive.
4. Variable Speed Compressors also referred to as inverter drives — are in the top-of-the-line high-efficiency units and for that reason are often the most expensive.
Now that we’re a little more familiar with what type of unit we have, let’s explore the potential issues you or a professional may need to resolve.
Common Air Conditioning Compressor Problems
1. Motor won’t start. Almost always this points to a faulty, or even missing, start capacitor.
2. Unit turns on and off frequently. First of all, if there is a frayed wire, don’t even try to handle this yourself. That said, the main problem with the constant cycling on and off is that the air conditioner’s ability to maintain comfortable temperatures and remove humidity from the air is compromised.
3. Compressor overheats. This could be due to faulty wiring or, yet again, the motor. There are also many of other reasons that can cause the overheating.Decrease in cooling capacity. This could be caused by pressurization issues — If the suction pressure is too high or low, the unit can’t keep up the pressure — or an improper refrigerant charge.
4. Doesn’t start or keeps failing. Most of the time this, too, is caused by a defective motor. Hopefully, this isn’t because the compressor is locked up and irreparable as compressors tend to be the most expensive air conditioning component.
Now What Do I Do?
Here are 3 steps to easy fixes for most of the problems listed above.
1. Clean the filters
Clear away any debris on the filters by cleaning with lukewarm water and a mild household detergent. If the filter seems damaged, replace it.
2. Clean the air ducts
Thoroughly check the seams of the air duct and if any spacing is visible, seal it up with a synthetic caulk
3. Fix unaligned condenser coils
First, cover the surrounding parts with a plastic sheet. Use a sponge dipped in lukewarm water for scrubbing the coils. Rinse with a small amount of water. If coils are bent, straighten them with a fine tool. Then, using a paintbrush, lubricate and protect the coils with condenser oil.
Hopefully, you now have a firmer grasp on the ins and outs of the air conditioner unit, and its compressor. If you have other questions about topics not listed, or you just want to ensure you’re all set when the hot weather arrives, you can research simple fixes for air conditioner problems.