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Bartels Heating & Cooling Blog

What Can Cause an AC’s Compressor to Fail?


In our previous blog entry, we discussed ways you can take some of the pressure off your air conditioning system in the sweltering heat and help it make it through the rest of the season. Today, we’ll get more specific and examine the essential part of the AC, the compressor. 

The compressor is the literal heart of an air conditioning system since it’s responsible for circulating refrigerant and putting it under pressure so it carries out heat exchange. The compressor is also an expensive component: if it burns out, it’s more cost-effective to replace the entire AC rather than just the compressor. 

Keeping the importance of a healthy compressor in mind, let’s examine ways a compressor may end up failing. This knowledge can help you recognize the importance of regular maintenance and the need for speedy air conditioning repair in Mason, OH

Refrigerant leaks/too much refrigerant

If the compressor is the heart of an AC, then refrigerant is its blood. An air conditioner runs with a specific amount (known as the AC’s charge) of refrigerant that won’t alter during the equipment’s service life—unless there’s a leak or someone accidentally puts in too much refrigerant. Both situations are major problems. Not only do they cause an AC to lose efficiency and cooling capacity, but they also put the compressor in jeopardy. Too little refrigerant and the compressor will burn out. Too much cold liquid refrigerant will move in the wrong direction into the compressor (slugging) and cause catastrophic damage to it. Technicians can help fix a leaking refrigerant and restore the lost amount, and they can bleed off the excess refrigerant. 

Oil leaks

The compressor motor is powerful and draws on large amounts of electricity to operate. Like most motors, it requires oil to operate. Oil leaks can jeopardize the motor and cause it to overheat, leading to a burnt-out compressor.

Electrical problems

The wires, contactors, and relays in the compressor motor can malfunction and cause the motor to fail. You can avoid these kinds of problems with regular maintenance. Our technicians always make electrical checks during our visits to help prevent issues that can cause the system to fail.

Lack of lubrication

We already mentioned oil as an essential part of the compressor’s operation. It lubricates the moving parts, removes heat created by the compressor’s operation, and creates a leak-proof seal to stop refrigerant inside the compressor from escaping. Loss of oil is devastating to a compressor because it will increase friction, raise heat levels while also lowering heat removal, and may mingle with the refrigerant—all of which put the compressor in high danger of burning out. Regular maintenance is the best way to ensure the compressor has the right amount of oil lubrication. 

Old age

No compressor can operate forever: mechanical wear and tear will eventually wear down the one in your AC and cause it to fail. Once an AC is more than 12 years old, a failing compressor is usually the sign that it’s time to replace the whole system. The compressor will no longer be under warranty and the air conditioner is already at the point where it’s ready to retire. 

Contact Bartels Heating & Cooling “For a Comfortable Way of Life”! We offer 24-hour emergency service.

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