Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing Blog

Is Your AC’s Compressor in Trouble?


All parts of an air conditioner do tasks that are important for its performance. But no other component of the modern air conditioner is more vital, and more a problem if it malfunctions, than the compressor. The compressor can be called, without exaggeration, the heart of an air conditioning system: it is responsible for the circulation of refrigerant through the AC so that the refrigerant can evaporate and condense to transfer heat from out of the house. Without a working compressor, a central air conditioner turns into nothing more than a large fan.

Another reason the compressor is important is that when it fails, it often means the entire air conditioner must be replaced. The cost to replace a compressor that is no longer under warranty is high enough that it’s more cost-effective to replace the rest of the AC components along with the compressor so the homeowner gets a new warranty.

Compressors often give off warnings that they’re in danger of burning out. If you notice these signs, schedule air conditioning repair in Bethesda, MD to fix the compressor or other problem before the compressor becomes irreparable.

Vibrating outdoor cabinet

The compressor is located inside the condenser cabinet, the outdoor part of a split system air conditioner. When the AC is running normally, you’ll hear the hum of the compressor motor as it comes on, but you shouldn’t see the cabinet vibrating. You’ll feel vibrations if you put your hand on the cabinet, but if you can see the cabinet shaking, something is wrong that needs HVAC technicians to investigate.

A decline in indoor comfort

If the compressor is starting to fail, it will lower the pressure and temperature of the refrigerant moving through the air conditioner—and this will mean comfort in the house will start to drop as well. There are other possibilities for losing cooling capacity, but all of them require the eyes of pros to find out what’s wrong.

Ice on the evaporator coil

Another way to tell that the compressor isn’t working at peak level is ice forming on the AC coil. This sounds a bit counter-intuitive, but the reason ice forms is because the coil is losing its capacity to absorb heat, leaving the refrigerant too cold and triggering moisture freeze. A frozen coil is never good, so always call for assistance when you see this.

Grinding and clicking sounds

Odd noises from the condenser cabinet can indicate a compressor that has a motor going bad. If the motor burns out, the compressor is often beyond rescue. When you hear excess noises as the AC tries to start up, such as clicking and grinding, it can mean the compressor is in trouble. Shut off the system at the electrical panel and call for repair technicians to see what’s wrong.

Tripped circuit breaker

If the breaker to the outdoor cabinet trips and cuts off power, it may be a short in the compressor causing a voltage surge. Don’t reset the switch and try the system again, since this may lead to bigger trouble. Get the experts on the job right away.

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