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Compressor Burn-Out: The BIG Air Conditioning Problem


Hey there, compressor! How are you feeling this late summer?

As summer winds down and temperatures cool, homeowners are often a bit more careless with their air conditioning in Rolesville, NC. They’ll keep it running—there are still hot days ahead, and fall can strike with major heat waves—but they may not pay as much attention to it or carefully monitor how long it runs. And this is unfortunate because at the end of cooling season is the period when an AC is most likely to suffer a catastrophic failure. The system already put in an immense amount of labor handling the heat and humidity of summer, and when that wear and tear catches up, it can mean a serious malfunction…

…including the most dreaded of all, COMPRESSOR BURNOUT!

A Burnt-Out Compressor Is a Major Problem

The compressor is the heart of an air conditioner, quite literally: it’s the pump that causes refrigerant to circulate through the system and applies energy to the refrigerant. If the compressor fails, it’s the most expensive part of the air conditioner to replace. Often, it’s more cost effective to replace the entire AC rather than the compressor. Around half of air conditioning breakdowns that require replacing the system are from compressor burnout.

The best way to protect the compressor in your air conditioner from a burnout is through regular maintenance each spring. There are many important functions of regular maintenance service (and you can sign up for it through our Comfort Club program), but perhaps the #1 job is to ease strain on the compressor. A healthy compressor helps keep the whole AC in good shape and extends its service life.

There are a number of different reasons for compressor failure:

  • Loss of lubrication: If the compressor’s moving parts are not properly lubricated (an important step during maintenance), the system can seize up and burnout. If you notice the compressor hard-starting, call for technicians right away to see if it needs lubrication to prevent failure.
  • Bad oil: As with a car, if the oil in the compressor becomes viscous, it will ruin the motor and cause a failure.
  • Acid and moisture: With our humid climates, moisture in the compressor is a constant concern. Acid build-up is also common. During maintenance, our technicians do checks on acid and moisture in the compressor to see if they’re causing problems.
  • Failed fan: A broken outdoor fan is a problem for an air conditioner in general, but it can also lead to a burned-out compressor because the fan will not be able to vent heat out as the compressor runs. This can lead to the compressor overheating. Just another friendly reminder that any repair needs to be done as soon as possible before it creates worse troubles.

Make a special point at this time of year to watch for the distinct noises of a hard-starting compressor (grinding and clicking) as the cooling cycle begins. This is the major warning you have a compressor in danger at the end of summer. If you didn’t schedule maintenance, we recommend calling us right away to look into the system: you don’t want to shut the AC down for the fall with a problem like this ready to kill the whole cooling system the next time you really need it!

Comfort Master Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. offers service throughout the Triangle Area of North Carolina.

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