These days, you can’t turn around (or walk past a newsstand) without getting bombarded with tips for staying healthy. It makes sense: getting sick is unpleasant so many people go to great lengths to avoid everything from the common cold to heart disease.
Unfortunately, people don’t tend to maintain their AC the same way they maintain their health. If it’s still keeping you cool, it’s fine, right? That’s not always the case. Even with normal usage, an air conditioner can develop problems as well as accumulate wear and tear that can lead to problems down the road.
Just like taking care of your body keeps you healthy, taking proper care of your AC means it’s much less likely to break down. That’s why it’s so important to take the steps outlined here to prevent AC compressor failure.
AC maintenance is much easier and less expensive than the repairs it prevents. While it may not seem like your system needs it, it’s worthwhile to keep your AC maintained rather than having to fix it when something goes wrong.
Related article: Air Conditioning Maintenance Doesn’t Cost. It Pays.
Why is AC compressor failure a big deal?
Your air conditioner makes use of a continuous cycle of refrigerant, the substance in your AC that actually removes heat from your space. That cycle begins with the compressor. The compressor does exactly what it sounds like; it compresses the refrigerant from a gas to a liquid. The chemicals that make up refrigerant turn into gas at a particularly low temperature and pressure. This allows them to absorb heat at room temperature.
To take advantage of this fact, compressors need to pump the refrigerant through the system and condense it into a higher-pressure gas.
Obviously, the compressor is an essential part of your AC system. Compressor failure is bad news because a compressor has many moving parts, and can be very expensive to fix or replace. When a compressor fails, you may find yourself having to replace the entire unit.
8 steps to preventing compressor failure
Compressor failure tends to happen due to problems in another part of the system that lead to increased strain. These are 8 areas that need to be regularly checked or addressed to keep your AC compressor healthy.
1. Check for leaking refrigerant
If you notice that your AC is slowly losing cooling power, you might have a refrigerant leak.
While other breakdowns can be inconvenient and potentially expensive, a refrigerant leak might require correction by law due its environmental and potentially hazardous effects.
Related article: Refrigerant Safety: Don’t Pay Too High a Price for Staying Cool
Another incentive to repair a leaking AC quickly is preventing compressor failure. Left unchecked, a leak can lead to very low levels of refrigerant. This makes the unit work harder, eventually causing damage to the compressor.
Fixing this issue promptly will help avoid further deterioration of the AC and save you the expense and hassle of compressor failure.
2. Only hire qualified HVAC professionals
Because a leaking refrigerant line is a delicate issue, one that has been fixed the wrong way can also result in compressor failure. An inexperienced repairman might fill the lines with too much refrigerant, or even the wrong type. Both of these mistakes can damage the compressor.
Enlisting a knowledgeable HVAC technician is crucial to keeping your unit working properly.
3. Get the right replacement parts
Here’s another reason it’s important to get a qualified HVAC technician, because mistakes made while repairing one problem can lead to another.
If improperly mended with parts that are either incorrect or the wrong size for your unit, the strain on the system can lead to compressor failure. Save yourself the trouble of having to get your AC fixed twice by making sure it’s competently fixed the first time.
4. Keep your coils clean
AC coils accumulate dirt and grime through normal wear and tear. These coils can get covered in dust and other build-ups that prevent the normal release of heat through the coils.
When heat exchange is inhibited in the coils, the compressor works overtime to expel the heat. This causes increased pressure in the coils and places unnecessary stress on the compressor. Avoid a compressor failure by keeping your coils clean and untarnished.
5. Keep your AC well oiled
The compressor is one of the most important moving parts in your AC. Keeping it properly supplied with an oil lubricant is vital to its continued function.
Like a refrigerant leak, having oil lubricant replaced precisely is essential for avoiding expensive problems like compressor failure. Hiring a trusted professional will make the difference between a temporary fix and effective maintenance.
6. Make sure suction lines are clear
The compressor is meant to handle a certain amount of pressure in order to function. But if the AC’s suction lines become blocked or damaged, it could create too much pressure and an increase in temperature.
Compressor failure often occurs in scenarios like this that cause overheating.
7. Inspect wiring
Electricity keeps your fans blowing, your compressor moving and your refrigerant running. If an electrical failure occurs in an HVAC system, it can produce an accumulation of acids in the machine.
This can lead to deterioration of many parts of your AC, including the all-important compressor. During a maintenance inspection, a technician can tell you if these acids were detected in your AC unit.
Regular inspections mean finding and replacing damaged wires and fuses before they can lead to further damage and compressor failure. Investing in the care of your wiring now (with preventative maintenance) will save you time and money in the long run.
8. Prevent contamination
Large AC units are usually tucked out of sight in attics, crawl spaces, storage rooms, and outside. Unfortunately, out of sight often means of out of cleaning range. The areas where air conditioners are installed are not the cleanliest spaces in a building.
An AC has drain lines for water, refrigerant coils and air ducts, all of which have the potential to become contaminated if not regularly cleaned. The sources of these contaminants are many, from grime, mold, and even pest droppings, to chemicals and pathogens that make you sick.
That buildup of grime can cause strain on the system and lead to compressor failure.
The easiest compressor failure prevention
The easiest way to prevent compressor failure covers all 8 steps at once. It’ll keep your AC running smoothly and save you costly repairs and service interruptions. The best part is you won’t have to lift a finger.
A preventative maintenance plan insures that you’ll avoid compressor failure instead of having to fix or replace it.
It’s good to be aware of what your service tech is looking out for, and that includes these 8 prevention methods.
Which would you rather do, deal with the cost and unpleasant consequences of an illness, or avoid getting sick in the first place? Treat your AC with the same care and it’ll stay in great shape for when you need it most.
If you want to keep your AC healthy, think of it as a yearly checkup for your air conditioner. (Or you might need a plan that provides maintenance more often, depending on your equipment, usage and budget.) Learn more about finding the right preventative maintenance plan for you with this free guide to HVAC Preventive Maintenance Contracts: How to Find The Right One For Your HVAC Infrastructure.