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(707) 539-4533 |  Sonoma Napa and Marin Counties

The compressor in your air conditioner is one of the most critical components in your entire HVAC. It is responsible for one of the system’s most necessary functions: converting your refrigerant back and forth from a liquid to gas. The heat produced and lost when the refrigerant undergoes this chemical change is what allows your system to change the temperature of the air that flows through it and into your home. As such, one may think of the compressor as the holy grail of your home’s cooling capabilities. However, the compressor is also one of your system’s most sensitive parts in addition to being one of its most important. Compressor failure can cripple an HVAC system, and compressor replacement is often expensive. Due to these facts, it is strongly advised that all HVAC owners take steps to familiarize themselves with common warning signs of compressor trouble. Learning how to know if a compressor is bad can help you deal with a problem before the situation becomes unsalvageable, or at least give you time to budget for a new compressor before yours fails.

How to Know if a Compressor is Bad

The following are four signs you can use when you’re wondering how to know if your AC compressor is bad. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for these anomalies:

  • Leaking moisture.

Sometimes, a frozen evaporator coil or blocked condensate drain can result in water pooling around your indoor unit, but water isn’t the only thing that can leak from your AC. Refrigerant also has the potential to be a problem, and in many cases, it is much more serious.

Refrigerant contains Freon, which should not come into contact with humans directly. Even a small amount of refrigerant in an area with human activity can cause feelings of nausea and irritation. Refrigerant leaks typically from a damaged compressor, so if you see any leaks be sure to call for assistance. If enough refrigerant leaks from the system, it will no longer be able to cool your home at all.

  • Strange noises coming from your indoor unit.

If you can hear odd noises coming from your indoor unit, there is a good chance that your compressor is off somehow. The exact nature of the problem should be determined by a professional, but you can gain an idea of what the issue is by paying close attention to the type of noise.

If you hear a kind of rattling sound when you first turn your AC on then the problem may be with the electrical relay switch. This issue usually occurs shortly before a compressor fails, so contact a professional HVAC tech right away if you notice it. Similarly, a rumbling noise once the system has started can indicate that the compressor motor has dislodged itself and is bumping around inside the system. You should not attempt to fix a loose motor by yourself, so call for help whenever you hear these sounds.

  • Poor airflow. 

Low airflow is not always a sign that your compressor is bad, but it is indeed one possible symptom. If you notice that air is not flowing through your home sufficiently while you are using your air conditioner, you should try several things to pinpoint the problem. Low air flow is often caused by dirty filters, so check to see that yours have recently been changed. Blocked ducts can also interfere with airflow so you may wish to have them cleaned by a professional.

If both tasks have been accomplished recently, there is a higher chance that the low airflow in your system is the result of a weak compressor producing less cold air than usual. A trained HVAC technician will be able to confirm this or point out another reason for the issue.

  • Lack of cooling capabilities.

A broken compressor may produce a lower volume of cold air, or it may produce an equal volume of air but fail to cool it adequately. If you notice that the air coming from your AC is not as cool as it used to be, check your thermostat settings to make sure they haven’t changed. If they haven’t, you are probably dealing with a weak compressor.

Once your compressor fails, there is nothing to do but replace it. However, you can make your compressor considerably less likely to fail by arranging for regular AC service. Hiring a licensed HVAC service company to check your system twice a year and deal with irregularities can prevent many of the problems that cause compressor failure in the first place. They will also make your system more efficient, saving you money on monthly utility bills and offsetting the expenses over time. Invest in reliable help for your HVAC, and remember the top 4 signs of how to know if a compressor is bad in the meantime. That knowledge could help you avoid significant problems before they occur. For more information on our AC Service plan, please call us on 707-800-6287