Here are a few tell-tale signs that your compressor is starting to fail:
- Loud, abnormal noises coming from the outside unit
- Compressor motor issues
- Warm Air
- Low Refrigerant
- Too Much Refrigerant
- Lack of oil lubricant
- Electrical problems
- Dirty Condenser Coils
- Life expectancy of the compressor
How to Address A Failing AC Compressor
Loud and abnormal noises are one of the first signs. This noise is sometimes called a “hard start.” You will know right away when the air conditioning unit turns on, if you hear a noise that does not sound normal including shaking or shuttering of the unit, it may be a problem with the compressor. Before any further damage happens to the air conditioning unit, you’ll want to have a professional take a look.
Overheating may happen if the unit is not getting enough air circulation to work correctly. This can happen for a variety of reasons. Check the area around your outdoor AC unit to ensure there is a three-foot clearing on every side. Clear the space if needed. Anything blocking the airflow of the heat back outside will cause the system to act up leading to issues with the compressor.
Compressors consist of several working parts. If the pistons or cylinders are not in working order, the entire compressor will not work correctly. Checking the compressor involves taking the unit apart to see if any debris is inside the air conditioning. Do not forget to turn off all breakers, both indoors and outdoors, to the system before getting started.
Warm air flow into the home is a sure way to know something is wrong. It may not always be the compressor, but that is a prime place to look and note when you feel warm outside air flowing into your home.
Low refrigerant is another potential issue. You may notice that there is icing on the wires that supply the refrigerant. Refrigerant needs to be replaced by a professional that is certified by the EPA as well as state and local licenses to perform this fix on an air conditioning unit. Not only is this bad for your air conditioning system, but leaking refrigerant is also bad for the environment.
Just as too little refrigerant is a problem, having too much refrigerant or the wrong type can lead damaging the compressor.
If you notice leaks around the unit’s area, this could cause severe damage to the compressor. Lubrication is needed within the system to make sure the components are kept cool. If you see a leak, it could lead to metal-on-metal contact proving there is something wrong with the compressor.
Electrical issues can be a cause of compressor problems. For a motor to fail electrically, there can be a short to the ground, a short that is disconnected and a short to an additional lead. This will be checked any time during regularly scheduled maintenance. Corrosion of both wires and terminals has lead to many problems within the systems.
Any machine needs oil lubricant to work correctly. As part of a routine maintenance schedule, lubricant levels will be checked to ensure all parts are running smoothly.
Dirty compressor coils can lead to overheating of the compressor. It can lead to the system to work harder and run longer to cool your home.
Even with proper maintenance of your air conditioning unit, its life expectancy may be coming to an end. Check the records to see when it was installed and the upkeep of the current system and if the warranty is still valid.
To prevent overheating, ensure the outdoor unit has proper ventilation away. Avoid any covers to hide it out of sight, while it may look appealing to cover it up, it will only damage the unit. Clear any obstructions such as bushes, tree limbs, high grass or vegetation, fences or storage of outdoor furniture are at least three feet away from the unit at all times. You should check there is a five-foot clearance on top of the unit.
Cleaning the condenser fins often can prevent overheating, too. The buildup of dirt, bush and tree clippings or other materials can interfere with the refrigeration process. Air conditioner foaming coil cleaners can be found at home improvement stores such as Home Depot or Lowes for easy clean up without harming parts of the air conditioning system. Cleaning will also help ensure the air is circulating as it should within the house.
Warm air into the home may be a sign that the compressor is low on refrigerant causing it to work overtime. You may notice that there is ice or frost on the refrigerant coils, a concerning hissing or bubbling noise from the refrigerant lines, if your energy bill seems to be higher than usual and if your air conditioning unit is running, but your home remains warm. This problem is a quick fix and cheaper than if your compressor burns out because of this simple problem.
Check your filters as you would check your smoke detectors. The blower filters should be changed at minimum twice a year unless you live a dusty area, where you would want to change it more often. Located inside the indoor unit where the fresh air duct enters the unit, you can find the enclosure where the filter can be taken out and replaced.
Filters also help keep contaminants and dust from getting into your home which in turn will provide clean air but also ensure your system will be in working order. These can be installed quickly and picked up locally at Home Depot or any other home improvement store.
The Bottom Line
If you are not familiar with how air conditioning systems work, it will be hard to diagnose the issue yourself. As with any machine, a lot of upkeep must be done to make sure it is in working order. Understanding the causes will help with understanding how to prevent them.
Remember, you should have biannual checkups on your air conditioning system when entering the cold weather heating system and the hot weather cooling system. It is better to do preventative maintenance twice a year to prolong the life of your air and heating system rather than have to replace it when it could have served you for longer.
If in doubt, reach out to a professional who works with air conditioning units on a daily basis to ensure that your system is up for the upcoming summer temperatures.