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The compressor is the “heart” of your home air conditioning system, pumping its lifeblood, or refrigerant, through the system. When the compressor fails, your AC system loses its ability to provide your home with cool, comfortable air. Your system may show symptoms of a problem, but many homeowners are curious as to what causes AC compressor failure.
What Causes AC Compressor Failure?
The main causes of AC compressor failure are typically mechanical strain on the compressor itself.
In order to perform its function, the AC compressor needs to have enough refrigerant in the system in order to do its jobs. When a mechanical strain is put on the system, the compressor will burn out or become too damaged to pump the refrigerant.
Some of the main direct causes of AC compressor failure are:
- Dirty condenser coils
- Blocked or incorrectly sized suction lines
- Too much or too little refrigerant
- Lack of lubrication
In addition to these mechanical problems, electrical failure within the system is another cause of AC compressor failure.
How Can These Factors Cause My AC Compressor to Fail?
The condenser is the outdoor unit of your home AC system. Since it’s located outdoors, it is not unusual for dirt and grime to build up inside the unit. This becomes a problem when the build-up is so great that the unit can no longer expel the heat that is the byproduct of the cooling system. Too much heat means that the compressor will have to work overtime to cool your home, which results in mechanical strain.
Suction lines are responsible for moving refrigerant through your air conditioning system. If these lines become blocked with dirt, the proper amount of refrigerant won’t be able to flow through the system. The result is an overheated and strained compressor. If the suction lines are improperly fitted, meaning they’re too small or too large, the compressor won’t receive the necessary amount of refrigerant, which can also lead to compressor burn out.
Too little refrigerant can also be a sign of a leak somewhere within the system. The compressor will try its best to pump all the refrigerant it needs to perform, but if it simply isn’t there, the compressor will work overtime and eventually fail. The same is true if too much refrigerant or even the wrong type of refrigerant is added to the system. The compressor will be unable to regulate itself properly under these circumstances, which will cause it to fail.
Inside the compressor, there are many moving parts. These parts need to be properly lubricated in order to function. If there is too little lubrication, friction between the parts will build up, and ultimately cause premature wear and tear and failure.
Lastly, electrical problems can occur anywhere within the system. Even if they aren’t directly within the compressor or condenser unit, the trouble caused by these shorts will eventually impact the compressor and increase the load on the mechanism. Over time, this will result in a failure.
The best way to avoid an AC compressor failure is to have your system regularly inspected and serviced by an HVAC professional. Call 844-962-2681 to reach trained technicians in your area, who can inspect all elements of your air conditioning system. They’ll check for common causes of AC compressor failure to prevent future issues, and offer you a no-obligation quote for services or repairs to keep your compressor running correctly.
When your home’s air conditioner compressor fails, that means big trouble. But knowing what causes AC compressor failure can help you prevent problems with regular service and maintenance.
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Frank is the chief editor and director at Specialty Air, where he oversees testing, research, and editing for all air quality-related articles. Frank is an expert in the air quality space with extensive experience testing, researching, and reviewing air purifiers, air conditioners, air filters, air fresheners, fans, and more. He also has over 4 years of experience with issues surrounding mold remediation, radon mitigation, moisture management, air duct systems, HVAC, and insulation.