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Cool Touch Air Conditioning and Heating Blog

Why an AC Compressor May Burn Out

compressor-in-ac-unit

Your air conditioning system worked hard this summer, and it’s probably still putting in work because the heat is carrying through the fall. Because you won’t be ready to schedule your next AC maintenance appointment until spring, it’s wise to pay special attention to how the AC is currently operating. You want to catch any problems early so you can arrange for air conditioning replacement or air conditioning repair in Tempe, AZ with our team. 

We want to talk about one of the biggest issues your AC may run into, which is a burnt-out compressor. The compressor is the literal heart of the air conditioning system, since it’s what causes refrigerant to circulate and carry out heat exchange. (Note: If you use a heat pump, all of this applies to it as well, since its compressor operates the same way.) If the compressor fails, it often means the entire air conditioner must be replaced.

Reasons for Compressor Burn Out

A compressor burns out when the motor overheats and the wiring in it fuses with the casing. The motor is part of the compressor’s housing, so a burnt-out motor means a burnt-out compressor. What can cause this burn-out?

  • Refrigerant floodback: Liquid refrigerant is not supposed to move into the compressor. If this occurs, it will cause the oil in the compressor to break down, leading to mechanical strain that will overheat and burn out the motor. Refrigerant floodback can occur if the AC is overcharged with refrigerant, which is a common problem caused by amateur repair work.
  • Low refrigerant: Refrigerant leaks are extremely detrimental to an AC, and the main reason is that the lower amount (charge) of refrigerant will cause the compressor to overheat. 
  • Electrical overload: There are several sources for excess voltage overloading the motor and causing burn out. There may be an electrical short, a voltage surge, or a drop in voltage causing the motor to make a higher demand that overwhelms it. 
  • Strain from short-cycling: We’ve talked about short-cycling before. It’s a phenomenon where the AC becomes trapped in its start-up cycle and turns on and off rapidly over a short time. The motor draws on the most electrical power at start-up, and it can much more easily overheat because of this. If you notice short-cycling, please have a technician on the problem soon to avoid compressor burn out. 
  • Mechanical issues due to degradation: In other words, the motor is plain worn-out, possibly from age. If the compressor fails in a system that is older than 10 years, it’s likely because the mechanical parts are too worn down. 
  • Corrosion: High moisture levels can sometimes lead to corrosion beginning in the motor that will cause burn out. This is avoidable with regular maintenance.

If you notice a decline in cooling in your house, an increase in humidity, hear strange noises from the outside cabinet of the AC, or detect short-cycling, please shut off the air conditioner and call our technicians. The sooner we’re on the problem, the better chance we have of heading off a burnt-out compressor and need to replace the system.

Call on Cool Touch Air Conditioning and Heating when you need the best in comfort. Kick back and relax: we’ll keep you cool.

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