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AC Compressor Failure Problems and Telltale Signs

Part of the reason why HVAC can be such a detailed area, one home and building owners spend so much time thinking about, is because of the varying components involved. Several major features play a direct role in how your system runs, and during the warmer months, one of the most important here is your air conditioning unit's compressor.

At My Buddy the Plumber, our air conditioning maintenance and repair services cover all the important components in your system, including your compressor and several others. This is a vital component -- if it fails, your system will not be able to operate. Why is the compressor so important, and what are some signs it's having issues or even outright failing? Here's a basic primer.

AC compressor failure problems signs

Basics on AC Compressors

Air conditioners work through a process of heat transfer, one where heat is moved from the inside of your home or building to the outside. In order for this process to happen, your system must have a refrigerant -- a substance that helps facilitate this heat transfer. The compressor's job is to pressurize the refrigerant so it can change states and effectively remove heat from indoor air.

Compressors can differ in size and shape depending on the specific air conditioner model, but they all have one common goal: to help facilitate heat transfer. If your compressor fails, this process will not be possible and your home or building will no longer be cooled effectively.

There are several signs that may indicate your compressor is either failing or nearing this point, which we'll go over in our next few sections.

AC Has Trouble Starting (Or Won't Start)

Perhaps the most common symptom homeowners and businesses notice first is that their air conditioner has difficulty starting up, or won't start at all. If this happens to you, it's important not to ignore it -- while it could be a minor issue, it could also be a sign of a more serious problem within your system, compressor included.

If you've noticed this symptom, the first step is to try and ensure it's not a different issue. One of the most common is a circuit breaker that's been tripped -- if this is the case, you should be able to flip it back on and have your system running again in no time.

If the breaker trips repeatedly or your AC still won't start, however, this could be a sign that there's an issue with your compressor. Attempting to repair this problem on your own is dangerous unless you have specific training in HVAC maintenance and repair, so the best course of action is to reach out to a professional as soon as possible.

Strange Noises Coming from AC Unit

Another symptom that may indicate an issue with your compressor (or another component) is strange noises coming from your air conditioning unit. If you've noticed odd grinding, squealing, or clicking sounds, this is definitely something you should have looked at by a professional.

In some cases, these noises may be caused by a component that's become loose and is rattling around -- this isn't necessarily indicative of a major problem, but it's still something that should be addressed as soon as possible to avoid any further damage.

Other noises, however, such as grinding or squealing, may be caused by a more serious issue. These sounds could indicate that there's something wrong with your compressor's motor, which is a vital component of this system. If left unchecked, this problem will only worsen and eventually lead to full compressor failure.

Unit Runs, But Blows Warm Air

In other cases, homeowners may notice that their air conditioner is still running, but it's no longer effectively cooling their home or building. If this happens, it's likely due to a problem with your compressor -- specifically, that it's not able to pressurize the refrigerant properly.

This can be caused by several issues, including a loss of refrigerant due to leaks, damage to the compressor itself, or even an issue with the air conditioner's controls. In any case, it's important to have this problem addressed as soon as possible -- otherwise, you'll continue to run your system without it providing any real benefit, and will only end up wasting energy (and money) in the process.

Lower Quantities of Air

One of the earliest signs of compressor issues in many cases, one that may be tough to notice at first, is lower quantities of air coming from your vents. If you've noticed that the airflow from your AC unit seems weaker than usual, this could be due to a problem with the compressor -- specifically, that it's not able to pressurize the refrigerant properly.

This can result in warm air being circulated through your ducts instead of cool air, and can cause your AC unit to run for longer periods of time in an attempt to compensate. As a result, you may notice higher energy bills as well as increased wear and tear on your system. If you believe this may be the case, it's important to have your system inspected by a professional to confirm the issue.

If you've noticed any of these problems with your air conditioner, it's important to reach out to a professional as soon as possible. Compressor failure is a serious issue that can leave your home or building without effective cooling, so don't wait until it's too late to get the problem fixed.

For more on this, or to learn about any of our plumbing, HVAC or even electrical service, speak to the pros at My Buddy the Plumber today.

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