The compressor is the very heart or engine of your air conditioning system. Its function is to compress the refrigerant to transfer heat out of your house. Anything that makes this critical motor stop will stop your air conditioner in its tracks! This constitutes an EMERGENCY on any ordinary Arizona summer day because it makes your house uninhabitable and makes you HOT and cranky!
Some contractors may routinely proclaim your compressor dead if has a problem like this, claiming the only option is immediate replacement. Because it “only costs $1500 -2000” compared with the cost of a whole new HVAC system, some just replace the compressor without really finding why it failed.
At Oasis, we don’t ascribe to the old HVAC adage that “compressors are not field-serviceable” without first seeing if the patient can be revived. We believe every effort should be made to provide the homeowner cooling ASAP. That means not only identifying a bad compressor, when it’s the problem, but also going the extra mile to find out exactly how the compressor failed before recommending immediate replacement.
Compressors can fail in different ways and from different causes. There can be many causes for compressor failure and may well reoccur to a new compressor if not addressed. The motor can seize (lock up), short out or the valves can leak causing the system to lose pressure.
The first things to check are the outlet, breakers, fuses, wiring, contactors and capacitors. If they are not working your compressor simply won’t work and they are fast, easy and relatively cheap fixes. If you hear humming coming from the outdoor unit, it may be the compressor struggling to connect with a worn-out capacitor. Turn your air conditioner off immediately because it can overheat your compressor and cause extensive damage to your system.
The next things to do are to clean the evaporators, filters and condenser. A blocked condenser coil can overheat the compressor. The compressor is engineered to turn off before it is damaged, however continuous overheating can irrevocably damage the compressor to where it may have to be replaced.
If refrigerant is low the compressor pump doesn’t work. The pump has to be lubricated by sufficient refrigerant. It may need more refrigerant and a check for leaky valves. If the system can’t hold pressure it must be replaced. If your air conditioner is older than 5 years, it probably uses R22 refrigerant which will not be available after 2020 which may be another reason to plan to replace your entire system.
If your compressor seizes or gets locked up, it can sometimes be mechanically freed to get your unit cooling again right away. Soon the compressor may fail again or sometimes it will chug along for a good while which buys you a little time to stop sweating and make a plan to replace it. It may depend on how well your equipment has been maintained.
It is possible, in some circumstances, to install a “hard start kit” to get your unit running. This is a special energy-storing capacitor that gives your compressor a little extra kick of voltage to help it start when it struggles to turn on. A little like a pacemaker, if your professional says you need one, know that your compressor’s days are numbered.
If your compressor “seized” and can’t be restarted, is “burned-out” or has an electrical short, it just can’t be fixed. These things can happen from power surges, excess moisture causing degradation and a number of other causes. If “emergency” efforts fail to bring your compressor back to life, you have two choices. You can have a professional replace your compressor, or you may decide it is time to replace the entire air conditioning system. It’s always a good idea to get a second opinion- it may be time to purchase a new HVAC unit.