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What Happens When Your AC Compressor Fails?

man and woman feeling hot because ac compressor failed

Your air conditioner’s compressor is commonly referred to as the heart of your air conditioning system. Without the compressor, your air conditioner absolutely cannot function — which is why AC compressor failure is a huge issue. 

Understanding what’s happening when your AC compressor fails is necessary to prevent such a failure from happening.

What is Air Conditioning Compressor Failure?

The AC compressor’s job is to compress the refrigerant and pump it through the AC system, which removes the humidity and heat from the air. This pumping of refrigerant is similar to the way your heart pumps blood, explaining the compressor’s common nickname: the heart. 

The compressor just so happens to be one of the most reliable portions of the entire AC system. It doesn’t need a ton of maintenance in order to work optimally throughout the entire AC unit’s life expectancy. If it does fail, however, then your entire AC unit fails.

If your AC compressor fails before it’s expected life span (which is typically 10 to 20 years), then that is most often due to some other issue within the AC system. Most commonly, AC compressor failure is a result of an underlying issue that was putting stress on the system until the failure occurred. This is important to understand because it means AC compressor failure is preventable! By detecting and fixing the issue causing stress, you can prevent a failure. Additionally, if you end up replacing the compressor, but without fixing the original issue, then the new compressor will most likely fail as well.

Since so many of the issues causing an AC compressor failure are preventable, scheduling regular HVAC inspections for your unit will help you prevent an AC compressor failure from happening.

What Causes AC Compressor Failure?

1. Dirty Coils

Dirt, dust, mineral deposits, and other sorts of grime all build up on the condenser coil over years of use. When this happens without ever getting a proper cleaning, the air conditioner isn’t able to expel an appropriate amount of heat from the system. This results in increased pressure and temperature as the AC system is forced to run constantly to cool the space. Overheating and failure are often the results.

2. Too Much Refrigerate

If someone who is improperly qualified accidentally adds too much refrigerant or the wrong kind of refrigerant to your unit, then your AC compressor can suffer. This mistake can potentially be deadly to your compressor.

3. Low Refrigerant

Just like too much refrigerant can be an issue, too little also causes problems. If your refrigerant line has cracks in it, then a refrigerant leak occurs. If this issue isn’t promptly addressed, then the refrigerant becomes too low for the compressor to work optimally. It’s forced to work harder to pump any refrigerant into the system, which causes a strain, and is likely to result in AC compressor failure.

4. Blocked Refrigerant Lines

If your AC unit’s refrigerant lines are blocked up in any way, then you’ll likely notice that your AC unit isn’t cooling as it should. If the blockage isn’t removed, your compressor will keep working harder and harder to cool the air. Predictably, this leads to overheating and a broken AC compressor.

5. Incorrect Refrigerant Lines

It’s important to note that should you notice your AC unit performing sub-optimally, you should call in a professional to inspect it. This way you can prevent larger damages from occurring. Keep in mind, however, that if your HVAC technician isn’t reputable, the service you receive will also be suboptimal. Poorly trained HVAC technicians are capable of making the mistake of replacing a broken refrigerant line with a new one that is either too large or too small for your system. As expected, this leads to a build-up in pressure, overheating, and a broken AC compressor. Make sure any HVAC technician you allow to inspect your unit is properly certified.

6. Not Enough Lubricant

Oil lubricant is to your AC compressor as blood is to your body. It keeps it functioning, alive, and healthy. If there isn’t enough lubricant in your system, then it limits your compressor’s ability to perform smoothly. The strain of extra work eventually leads to a breakdown.

7. Electrical Issues

As mentioned, if your AC unit is giving off some home AC compressor failure symptoms, it’s important to call in a professional. It could be that your unit is dealing with some electrical issues which often begin as small issues and quickly avalanche into huge ones. Once electrical damage is done to your AC compressor, there’s often no repair possible. An expensive replacement is necessary. If you’re diligent in getting your AC unit inspected by a regular maintenance professional, then you can greatly increase your chances of catching an electrical issue early and even preventing one from happening in the first place.

Preventing AC Compressor Failure

Although no AC compressor unit will last forever, with regular service appointments through our Service Partner Program, our team can increase the longevity of your air conditioning system’s inner components provide air conditioning repair when necessary.

When your air conditioner is finally ready for an upgrade, our team can provide the highest quality service and a competitive price to upgrade your AC unit to a more energy-efficient model. To receive regular maintenance or get emergency air conditioning service, call (703) 752-1266 or contact us online.