How to Know When Your AC Compressor is Malfunctioning?

Discover how to identify and address home AC compressor problems in your HVAC unit. Learn about home AC compressor and central air unit troubleshooting tips at Sandium.

Updated on Oct 23, 2023
5 min read
How to Know When Your AC Compressor is Malfunctioning?

HVAC systems keep indoor temperatures at a comfortable level and provide you clean, breathable air. The system consists of various components that must all work together smoothly to give you properly conditioned air. The compressor is the heart of the air conditioning system. A malfunction in the compressor can be a big issue and must be checked immediately.If ignored, you may have to replace the compressor itself, which is a big expense. Sometimes, the damage could be so extensive that you may be forced to invest in a new system altogether. 

A regular cleaning and preventive maintenance schedule can avoid malfunctions of the system.

Here are a few signs which indicate that your AC compressor may be malfunctioning.

1.  The compressor is not turning on

It is possible than the AC fans are running and that your thermostat is correctly set but the room does not feel cool at all. This indicates that the compressor is not ON. You will also fail to hear any sound of the compressor.

An easy way to troubleshoot this is to lower the temperature on your thermostat and check if the compressor turns back ON. But if this does not help, there could be a major issue which would be best checked by an HVAC technician. Get professional help quickly and do not try to run a system that is malfunctioning.

2. The AC is blowing warm air

Despite the compressor and the fans running, if you still receive warm air through the vents, it could indicate a compressor failure. The function of the compressor is to ensure that the refrigerant absorbs heat from the atmosphere to provide you cool air. A failing compressor cannot pump refrigerant into the system and the cooling process will cease.

3. The circuit breaker is tripping

A failing compressor usually draws more power than required, causing a cycle of issues. More power will result in overheating of the compressor. The outdoor condenser unit will receive less power and cause the circuit breaker to trip often.

You can reset the circuit breaker if this happens once in a while but do not reset it again and again if it still keeps tripping. The circuit breaker tripping is actually a fire safety measure. Get it inspected immediately by an HVAC technician.

4. The condenser unit is hard starting

A condenser unit that shakes and vibrates a lot while turning ON is said to be ‘hard starting’. This shows that there is some issue in the system. Condenser units often hard start before failing completely. This is an important indicator of compressor failure and must be attended to urgently. Do not try to continue running the system in such a case. It can cause further damage.

5. The condenser is too noisy

If the condenser unit is suddenly too loud or making weird noises, it could mean that there is failure of some electrical component or that a dislodged fan motor is rattling inside the system. The strain on the unit can lead to compressor failure which no Bay Area resident would want.

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