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Atlantic Refrigeration and Air Conditioning, Inc. Blog

Main Causes of a Failed AC Compressor

compressor-in-outdoor-unit

Perhaps the biggest AC problem you want to avoid is a failed compressor. The reason is simple: the cost to replace a compressor (unless it’s still under warranty) is expensive enough that it’s often more cost-effective to have the whole air conditioner replaced.

What can cause a compressor to fail? There are several common sources we’re going to look at below. Understanding the ways a compressor can fail will help you avoid this problem and call for air conditioning repairs in Dover, DE, to head off a much more expensive repair or replacement in the near future.

Leaking refrigerant

This is the most common reason for a compressor failing years too early. Refrigerant leaks don’t happen only in old ACs: they can occur as early as five years into the life of a system because of chemical reactions between the copper refrigerant lines and chemicals in the household air. An AC is designed to work at a specific refrigerant charge. If that charge drops, it will eventually cause the compressor to overheat and burn out.

Overcharged refrigerant

This is the opposite problem: too much refrigerant in the AC. This can happen because of amateurs trying to repair the air conditioner. Excess refrigerant will cause a condition called slugging, where cold liquid refrigerant flows the wrong direction into the compressor, leading to it burning out. Professional AC technicians must bleed out the excess refrigerant charge.

Oil leaks 

The compressor uses powerful motors to operate, and this requires oil. If oil starts to leak from the compressor motor, it will lead to contamination of the compressor’s parts. The loss of oil will also rapidly lead to the compressor overheating.

Hard starting

This is when the compressor faces too much resistance to starting and must draw on more electricity to begin the cooling cycle. This not only leads to higher energy bills, but the strain placed on the compressor can lead to it failing. Technicians can fix this by adding a hard start kit that gives the compressor the electrical boost necessary to overcome the initial resistance. 

Electrical problems

Damaged wires, contactors, and fuses in the compressor motor can lead to failure. Loose wiring can also ground the compressor and quickly cause it to burn out. 

Age

Finally, a compressor that’s more than 12 years old may fail because of the accumulation of wear and tear or from other conditions like rust. This will happen sooner if the AC hasn’t received regular maintenance to keep it clean and tuned-up. (Yet another reason that annual professional maintenance is so essential!) Even with the finest care, the compressor won’t last forever, and if you have a failed compressor for an AC that’s 15 years old or more, you are probably overdue for getting a new air conditioning system anyway. 

If you believe you have a compressor in jeopardy because your AC is acting strangely, making odd noises, costing too much to run, or not cooling your house enough, call our team right away and leave the hard work to us.

At Atlantic Refrigeration & Air Conditioning, Inc., “We Take Pride in Your Comfort!” Reach out to us today if you think you need air conditioning repair to rescue your compressor.

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