AC Compressor And The Cooling Process: 4 Things to Know

Discover key information about the AC compressor and the cooling process. Trust Sandium for expert air conditioning service and HVAC service related to AC compressors.

Updated on Oct 22, 2023
5 min read
AC Compressor And The Cooling Process: 4 Things to Know

The compressor is one of the most vital components of your air conditioning system. Along with the evaporator located inside the air conditioner unit, and the condenser unit outside your Bay Area home, the compressor not only plays a critical role in the cooling process but also makes sure that the entire unit keeps running continually and works productively.

To know how your air conditioner unit works, you must know what makes the compressor work. With better knowledge about the regular maintenance and repair needs of your unit’s compressor, you can ensure its smooth and efficient operation. This will not only help you keep your cool during the warm California summer, but will also lead to your air conditioner unit’s longevity, apart from saving your energy costs.

The Working of a Compressor

The cooling cycle, at the heart of which lies the compressor, commences with the compressor drawing in the refrigerant gas. The compressor, driven by a motor, squeezes the cool refrigerant until it turns into a hot, high-pressure gas. The compressor then pushes this hot refrigerant to condenser coil in the outdoor unit where fans blowing cool air from the outside, extract the heat and transfer it to the air.

After the extraction process, the refrigerant passes first through the expansion valve where it condenses into a warm liquid, and then through the evaporator coil where it evaporates to turn back to its cool, low-pressure gas state. The compressor draws in the refrigerant again, to repeat the entire cycle.

Preventive Maintenance for Your Compressor

Compressor maintenance is imperative to ensure the proper working of your air conditioning unit. A breakdown due to lack of maintenance could prove to be a costly headache. Although your HVAC technician will check the compressor pads and other parts to look for any failure or damage during a routine service, here are a few preventive maintenance tips that may come in handy:

Remove any Obstructions: Ensure at least two feet of clearance for the outdoor unit so that it is free to pull in fresh air.

Turn On the High-Pressure Switch: This can prevent overheating of the compressor and is especially useful during the California summer when the unit is exposed to direct sunlight.

Regularly Clean the Air Filter: A clogged air filter will make your compressor work harder, and eventually overheat. Use a soft brush to clean the filter and make sure it is totally dry when you attach it back to the unit.

The Ways a Compressor Can Malfunction

Since there are moving parts in a compressor, including a motor with moving pistons, it is quite susceptible to breakdowns. A compressor malfunction may result in hard starts, inadequate cooling, or excessive noise.

Hard Start: A hard start is when the compressor labors to turn on or off, mostly due to an electrical fault in the unit.

Inadequate Cooling: The air conditioning unit may fail to suitably cool your home with a worn-out compressor.

Excessive Noise: While it is normal for a compressor to make a little noise when it starts up, a loose part inside the compressor may lead to clanking noises. A hissing or bubbling sound is the sign of a possible refrigerant leak.

A malfunctioning compressor may also lead to burnout, the outdoor air conditioning unit running hot, or the air conditioning system shutting down completely.

Compressor Repair

Sometimes, the reason for insufficient cooling or any other fault in your air conditioning system may not necessarily be due to a malfunction of your compressor. Speaking with your HVAC technician would be the first step in pinpointing the exact cause of the problem.

However, if the fault or breakdown is actually because of a compressor failure, you may be left with very few options and may need to replace the compressor in most cases. It’s possible that you may need to change the complete HVAC system, depending on how old it is, or what is nature and extent of the problem.

A properly working compressor is critical to the effectiveness and efficiency of your air conditioning system. Contact your HVAC technician for information in case of a compressor malfunction, and follow their advice before taking any repair decisions. 

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