When the heat waves start coming, Illinois residents look to their air conditioners to keep them cool and comfortable throughout the warm seasons. Just as we rely on an air conditioner to keep us from sweating all through the summer, your AC unit depends on its compressor to function and cool the air in your home. In this blog, we’ll discuss what causes AC compressor failure and what signs to look for to spot it early.

If you’re having a problem with your air conditioner or heater, Leith Heating & Cooling, Burlington’s AC repair experts, is here to help. Our knowledgeable and experienced HVAC professionals provide the highest quality service to residents throughout Fox Valley. Call us today to schedule an appointment or get a free estimate.

What Does a Compressor Do?

The compressor is essentially the heart of the AC system. The evaporator pulls heat from the air inside your home with the help of refrigerant. The refrigerant expands into a gas and heads to the compressor. 

The compressor reduces the refrigerant’s volume, returning it to a liquid. It then sends the refrigerant to the condenser, which releases the heat from your home outside. This cycle repeats continuously while your air conditioner runs.

What Causes AC Compressor Failure?

Several issues can cause your AC compressor to malfunction. It’s important to spot these problems early and have a professional repair them before they get worse and more expensive to fix. 

1. Dirty Condenser Coil

Dirt and dust will collect on your AC’s condenser coil with regular usage. This buildup will inhibit the heat transfer process the system requires to get your living space to the temperature set on your thermostat. 

If the heat cannot leave the system, it causes the compressor to work harder to cool your home and overheat. If your AC system struggles to operate, try cleaning the coils with a detergent and water solution. 

A dirty air filter in your AC system will cause the condenser to collect dirt more quickly. Changing or cleaning your air filters will prevent this issue.

2. Low Refrigerant Charge

The coolant the compressor uses to cool your home runs through a system of refrigerant lines. The lines form a sealed system that keeps refrigerant levels consistent. However, if there’s a leak in the refrigerant line, the coolant level will drop, causing the AC compressor to overheat and malfunction. 

If you suspect you have a refrigerant leak, call a licensed HVAC technician to inspect and repair the system immediately. Physical contact with refrigerant can result in chemical burns while inhaling it can result in severe lung damage.

3. Electrical Issues

The circuit board in your air conditioner will not last forever. The buildup of oxidation and acids will corrode the contacts. Once this corrosion occurs, the compressor won’t be able to get any power, and it will shut down. 

An experienced HVAC professional can repair and replace faulty wires or circuits to get your air conditioner running again. It’s unsafe to try to fix electrical equipment without proper training, so if you suspect your AC system has an electrical issue, let a licensed technician handle it for you.

4. Old Suction Lines

Your system’s refrigerant lines experience constant temperature changes that can cause them to split or crack as they get older. Damaged suction lines prevent the compressor from moving coolant through the system efficiently. This problem causes the compressor to work harder to do its job, resulting in overheating and eventual breakdown.

If your system isn’t producing cool air as well as it used to, have an HVAC technician inspect the suction lines. If they find a problem with the refrigerant lines, they can replace them and refill the system’s coolant.

5. Poor Lubrication

Your compressor’s motor needs proper lubrication to function correctly. If the compressor motor’s oil gets low, its components will dry out and wear faster, causing the whole thing to break down. 

If you have your AC unit owner’s manual, you can refill the lubricant on your own. You just have to find the opening to pour it into and make sure you use the type the manual recommends. Monitor the levels while you refill the lubricant so that you don’t put in too much.

If the motor is too far gone, simply lubricating it will not be helpful. In this case, you’ll need a professional to replace it to get the compressor working again.

6. Debris

The compressor for a central air conditioning system typically sits in an outdoor unit so it can release the heat collected from the home outside. Because it sits outside all year, the elements can wreak havoc on it, bombarding it with dirt, dust, leaves, twigs, bird droppings, and other contaminants.

If this debris finds its way into the compressor, it can cause much damage. To prevent this from occurring, keep the space around your outdoor unit clean and have your HVAC tech clean the insides whenever they come to service the system.

Signs of AC Compressor Failure

If your compressor stops working, it can result in a hefty repair bill. It’s best to spot AC compressor issues quickly and repair them before they worsen. The most common signs of compressor issues with your AC are:

  • Poor airflow: If the air from your vents seems weak and warmer than it should be, that’s an early sign of a compressor problem.
  • Banging: Strange noises coming from your AC system can indicate a compressor malfunction or other issues.
  • Higher energy bills: When your compressor has to work harder to do the same job, it uses more energy, which increases your utility costs.

Call Leith Heating & Cooling

Now that you know what causes AC compressor failure, keep an eye on your system to stay ahead of costly repairs. For the most reliable HVAC service in Elgin, IL, and the surrounding areas, choose Leith Heating & Cooling.

Click the link to learn if you need to replace old AC unit, and call us at 847-534-8686 to schedule your free estimate today!

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