an air conditioner compressor

If you’ve run into some trouble with your air conditioner you’ve probably heard about your air conditioner’s compressor. It’s an essential part of your air conditioner that can be responsible for some of the more serious problems.

The compressor is also the most expensive part of the air conditioner. It’s an important part to understand, especially if you’re trying to decide whether you should repair or replace your air conditioner.

What is an Air Conditioner Compressor?

The air conditioner compressor is an essential part of the air conditioner that acts on the refrigerant. The air conditioner starts with cold, liquid refrigerant that slowly absorbs heat from your home. To keep your home cool, the refrigerant has to release that heat into the air outside.

The compressor forces the refrigerant to release its heat. By compressing the warm refrigerant, the compressor heats the refrigerant to even higher temperatures. That way, when the refrigerant gets to the condenser, all of that heat can be quickly released into the outside air.

Refrigerant has to become hotter than the outside air to release heat. Therefore, the hotter the day, the harder the compressor has to work, to get the refrigerant to a higher temperature. That’s one reason major air conditioner breaks tend to happen on the hottest days of the year.

Signs Your Air Conditioner Compressor is Broken

There are a few signs that your air conditioner compressor isn’t working properly, or has broken completely. Your air conditioner might:

  • Shake or move, especially when starting
  • Make unusual noises
  • Stop making as much cold air
  • Stop making any cold air at all

Of course, an air conditioner with these symptoms could have other problems. You’ll have to have your air conditioner checked by a professional to discover exactly what is wrong with it.

Keep in mind that a broken air compressor can damage other parts of the air conditioner, especially the breaker, so it’s best to get your air conditioner looked at quickly if you suspect the compressor is broken.

What to Do if Your Air Conditioner Compressor is Broken

Unfortunately, a broken compressor is an expensive and serious problem. If your air conditioner compressor is broken, you should not replace it. Instead, replace the whole air conditioner. The compressor is likely half, or more, of the cost of a new air conditioner.

By buying a new air conditioner instead you’ll get the benefit of a new, more energy-efficient appliance with warranty coverage, for not much more money. If you only replace your compressor, another part of your air conditioner may break, and you won’t have the warranty to rely on. It’s generally a better use of your money to simply replace your air conditioner.

How to Protect Your Air Conditioner Compressor

It’s a wise idea to get regular air conditioner maintenance to protect it’s most valuable and expensive parts, like the air conditioner compressor. Your HVAC technician can spot small problems before they become large ones and require a complete air conditioner replacement.