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First Choice Heating & Cooling Blog

The AC Compressor: Why You Don’t Want It to Fail!

compressor-in-ac-unitA short quiz. What is the most important component in your air conditioning system?

  1. The blower fan
  2. The condenser coils
  3. The evaporator coils
  4. The compressor
  5. The thermostat
  6. All of the above

If you answered “6,” you’re right! There isn’t such a thing as “the most important component” out of options 1-6, because if any of these fail, you won’t have cooling from your AC. No fan means no air sent into the ventilation system. Losing either set of coils means the AC can’t carry out heat exchange. No thermostat means cooling can’t be turned on. And no compressor means the entire air conditioning system is dead and probably needs to be replaced.

“Wait a second, it sounds like the compressor is the most important part!”

If we changed the question to “What part of your air conditioning system do you least want to fail?” then the answer would definitely be “the compressor.” Although the compressor shares importance with the other parts, it’s also the one with the biggest consequences in the case of failure. Think of it as the motor in a car—if it permanently fails, it’s an expensive replacement, and many people will just opt to get another car.

The job of the compressor

The compressor is basically the heart of the air conditioner. That’s not figurative, but literal: the compressor is what is responsible for sending refrigerant circulating around the AC system so it can draw heat from inside the house and release it outside, much the same way the heart pumps blood around a body to carry oxygen. The compressor places pressure on the refrigerant in the AC, turning it into a hot, high-pressure gas. This is necessary for the refrigerant to move first to the outdoor coils, then to the indoor coils, and back to the compressor to restart the cycle. When the compressor stops working, no heat exchange can take place and the air conditioning system turns into just a large fan.

Compressor rescue operations

The compressor runs with a powerful motor, which is the major source of electricity use in the air conditioner. (This is why it’s less costly to run the AC in “fan only” mode, since the compressor stays off.) As with any motor, the compressor’s motor can overheat and burnout, fusing its wires. A “fried” compressor cannot be repaired—it must be replaced. This is an expensive job. If the air conditioner or the compressor is still under warranty, it’s worthwhile to have a new compressor installed. But if the AC is no longer under warranty, the more cost-effective step is to replace the air conditioning system.

Preventing compressor burnout is the best way to stop such an expensive repair for your air conditioning in Brighton, MI. When you notice your air conditioner is hard-starting (struggling to get the compressor running) or short-cycling (the compressor turns on and off rapidly over a short time), call for professionals right away to see if the compressor motor can be salvaged.

If your home had a voice … it would call First Choice! First Choice Heating & Cooling serves Fenton, Linden, Holly, and the surrounding areas.

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