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Mechanical Air Conditioning Blog

Watch Out for Strain on the AC’s Compressor

Fall is one of the riskiest times for air conditioning in West Palm Beach, FL. The problem is that air conditioners don’t get a big break with our fall weather and they’ve already worked hard through long summer heat. If you remembered to have your air conditioning system professionally maintained in spring, it will have a better chance of making it through this period without trouble. But that spring inspection and tune-up was many months ago, and the build of wear and tear can spell trouble.

Especially for the compressor, the most critical part of an air conditioner.

Why the compressor is so important

The compressor is the literal heart of an AC. It causes refrigerant to circulate through the system and it applies energy directly to the refrigerant so it can evaporate and condense to move heat out of the house. The compressor works similar to a car engine with a crankshaft, motor, and pistons, and it draws on the most electricity of any component in the air conditioner. If the compressor burns out, it usually spells the end of the air conditioner.

The overworked compressor—and how to avoid it

You can hear the compressor turn on and off when the air conditioning system is running. It’s a distinct deeper hum added to the sound of the fan motors. The compressor works in cycles at least 15 minutes long so it won’t run nonstop and wear down.

However, if you set the thermostat too low, the compressor will keep running as it attempts to reach the setting. An air conditioner can only lower the temperature in a home by 20°F, so if you set the thermostat lower than what the AC can reach, the compressor won’t shut off. Aim to have the thermostat set as high as you find comfortable (78°F is a good target) and you’ll not only help the compressor, you’ll also save energy on your utility bills.

Another type of overwork on the compressor to watch for is when the compressor shuts off after only a brief cycle (less than 10 minutes) and then turns back on a short time later. No matter how high you set the thermostat, the compressor should not work on such brief cycles. The compressor uses the most energy during start-up, and if it keeps stopping early, it puts immense and unnecessary strain on it. This condition is called short-cycling, and there are many reasons it might happen. Call for an HVAC technician to investigate the short-cycling and find out what needs to be done.

When the compressor does die…

…you probably need a new AC. It’s not true in all cases: if the compressor is still covered by the air conditioning system’s warranty, you can have just the compressor replaced. But if the system is old enough to be out of warranty, the cost of replacing the compressor alone is usually too high compared to having a new AC installed. Please ask our technicians for help in making the choice. They’ll offer you honest advice and then do the job you need.

Call Mechanical Air Conditioning—Family Owned & Operated over 40 Years in Palm Beach County. Your Trusted Source in AC Repair.

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