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Collier's Heating & Air Conditioning Blog

Watch Out for the Burned-Out AC Compressor


In our last post, we addressed a problem homeowners often encounter with their cooling systems as the summer approaches its close: a system that can’t seem to keep up with the heat. Whenever you have an AC that’s not doing its job, it’s vital that you call on us for air conditioning services in Syracuse, IN or elsewhere in Northern Indiana where our technicians are ready to solve your problem.

Today, we’re addressing another end-of-summer air conditioning trouble—and it’s a serious one that can make the difference between an AC with a long, productive service life, and an AC that needs to be replaced years too early. It’s the looming specter of the burnt-out compressor. When the compressor in an air conditioner fails, it is usually more cost-effective to replace the entire AC rather than the compressor… so this is definitely a malfunction you want to avoid at all costs!

The Importance of the Compressor

There probably isn’t a more vital component in an air conditioner (or heat pump; all of this post applies to heat pumps as well) than the compressor. This is the part that places refrigerant under high pressure to change it into a hot gas so that it circulates through the rest of the system and allows heat exchange to take place. If the compressor isn’t working, the AC is nothing more than a large fan blowing around room-temperature air.

You’re already familiar with the compressor at work: it makes the distinct humming sound you hear from the air conditioner’s outdoor cabinet when the cooling cycle begins. Changes in this sound, or behavior such as the sound starting and stopping too often during an hour, are warnings the compressor may be in danger of burning out and need professional attention.

Why a Compressor May Burn Out

The number one cause of compressor burn-out is lack of regular care and maintenance. Annual spring maintenance for an AC takes care of many different jobs, but perhaps the most essential is checks on the compressor to catch for extra wear, high moisture, or acid build-up, all of which could lead to the compressor becoming stuck and leading to failure. We strongly recommend you sign up for our HomesSavers Club to have your cooling system maintenance done each year without fail. It’s the best way to protect the compressor.

Compressors can also fail because of slugging, which is when cold refrigerant gets into the compressor (often because it flows the wrong direction, making this a frequent trouble for heat pumps). Cold refrigerant mixes with the oil in the compressor and causes it to fail.

A broken outdoor fan can also make a compressor to overheat. A failed fan is a problem in general for an AC, since it won’t allow the outdoor condenser coils to properly release heat. But the fan is also responsible for venting heat from the compressor, so if the fan stops running, the compressor’s temperature will rise and lead to burning out. This is one of the reasons that any repair in an AC must be attended to as soon as possible—before it leads to an even bigger repair.

Collier’s Heating & Air Conditioning: For over 30 years, a company you’ve grown to trust!

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