Is Your AC Compressor On The Fritz? Here’s How To Know For Sure

When Mother Nature turns up the heat, most people reach for the thermostat and crank up their home air conditioning system to remain cool and comfortable during the summer months. But what happens when your AC system won’t cooperate? What do you do when it blows warm air or no air at all?

Your home AC system can fail for a variety of reasons, but one of the more common issues is with the compressor.

In this article, we’ll look at why your AC compressor is vital to your home’s AC system, what causes it to go bad, and how much you can expect to pay for a new one.

How Your Air Conditioner Works

Most people don’t give their air conditioner a second thought until the day it stops working. They expect it to keep their home cool in the summer and warm in the winter, forever.

But knowing how your AC system works can help you diagnose a small problem that can be fixed quickly and inexpensively, before it grows into a large problem that costs hundreds to fix.

Most central air conditioners have an outside unit and an inside unit. The indoor unit contains the evaporator which houses the cooling liquid or refrigerant. This refrigerant absorbs heat from the air in your home and allows for cold air to blow out in its place.

The outside unit contains your compressor, the fan, and the condenser coils. Heat removed from the air inside your house passes to the refrigerant and then gets pushed to the outdoor unit where it passes over the condenser coil and then through the compressor.

Think of your compressor as the heart of your air conditioner system whose responsibility is to move the air throughout the system. When the compressor goes, so does your air conditioner.

What Happens When Your AC Compressor is Bad?

Now that you know how vital your air compressor is to your air conditioning system, it’s time to look at what happens when it goes bad and why it fails.

When the air compressor stops working your system grinds to a halt. You no longer get cold air because the refrigerant and the air is no longer pumped through they system.

Air compressors are expensive to replace, and while most are built to last up to 15 years plus, they fail eventually. However, with proper ac maintenance, you can extend the life of your AC unit and ensure it operates as you desire year in and year out.

Here are some common reasons your air compressor might fail.

  1. Dirty Coils — As your system ages, grime, dust, and mineral scales build up on your condenser coils, and when this happens, the unit can’t get rid of the heat efficiently, which causes it to work harder. As the unit works harder, it puts more wear and tear on it thus shortening its lifespan. Too much dirt can cause the compressor to overheat and stop working.
  2. Clogged Suction Lines — The suction lines are like the arteries of your AC system, as they carry the refrigerant necessary to keep the air cool. When these lines become clogged, you’ll notice a drop in how cold the air gets. As with dirty coils, the clogged suction lines cause the compressor to work harder, overheat, and eventually fail.
  3. Refrigerant Leaks — Sometimes, cracks develop in the lines that carry the refrigerant which can cause the fluid to leak. When there’s insufficient refrigerant, the system has to work harder to cool the air, which causes strain and eventual breakdown.
  4. Poor Lubrication — For your compressor to function optimally, it needs proper and thorough lubrication. Whether it’s due to age or if it was never well-lubricated, poor lubrication causes the compressor to work harder, which leads to an early demise.
  5. Power Failure — An air compressor can become damaged because of an electric shock to the system such as voltage fluctuations.

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How Much Does An AC Compressor Cost?

Getting a new air compressor is expensive, and depending on where you live and who installs it, the prices vary considerably. If you’re installing the unit yourself, expect to pay anywhere from $400-$800 for the unit depending on the model of your air conditioner. If you’re hiring an HVAC technician to install it, expect to pay anywhere from $1,200-$2,000.

Signs Your AC Compressor Is Going Bad

Since no one wants to shell out money for a new air compressor or a whole new HVAC system, it’s a good idea to know when something is going wrong and fix it quickly before the problem gets worse. Here are a few signs to watch out for that warn you your air compressor is failing.

  • Grinding, Chattering Noises — A noisy air conditioner is a sign that something is wrong and it should you should check it out right away.
  • Fluid Leaks — If you see refrigerant leaking or any fluid leaking from your system, get help immediately.
  • Low Airflow — If you’ve noticed the airflow in your home has diminished, the air compressor could be the culprit.
  • Warm or Hot Air — Sometimes, as the compressor fails, the air blowing out of the system is warm or even hot.
  • No Air — Obviously, if your air conditioner isn’t blowing any air at all, it’s a sure sign that something is wrong with the compressor.

When to Call An HVAC Professional

HVAC systems are complex machines and it takes someone with the technical know-how to fix them properly.

Any time you have a problem with your HVAC system, it’s best to call in a professional technician for an assessment and a fix rather than trying to do it yourself. If you damage the unit by trying to fix it yourself, you may void the manufacturer’s warranty.

Lastly, it’s a good idea to have a professional HVAC contractor perform routine maintenance on your system at regular intervals to ensure the system works as expected and lasts as long as possible.

Best Way to Save Money When It Comes to Your AC

When the heat is on during the summer months, there’s nothing better than coming home after a long day to a cool, refreshing home. And while most people couldn’t dream of living without their air conditioner, they don’t like the energy bills that come with running it constantly.

In this article, we look at the best ways to save money while using your air conditioner without sacrificing your comfort.

How Much Does It Cost To Run Your AC?

While there’s no single answer or number we can put on how much it costs to run an air conditioner because it varies from climate to climate and house to house, we can give a ballpark estimate.

The best way to figure out how much it costs to run your air conditioner is by using a simple formula. The first thing to do is learn how many amps your unit draws, which can be determined by looking at your air conditioner’s SEER rating. You should be able to find this number on the inside of your AC’s filter panel, for example, a 5,000 BTU air conditioner has a SEER rating of 5 amps.

Next, multiply the figure of 5 by the voltage put out by your outlet, which is usually 110. So, 5×110=550 watts. Once you know how much you’re paying per kilowatt an hour, you can figure out how much it costs to operate your AC system for any length of time.

Should I Turn Off My AC When I’m Not Home?

If saving money is a concern you have regarding your air conditioner, you’re probably wondering if it’s beneficial to turn it off when you’re not home. There are two schools of thought here. On one hand, you have people who reason that if the machine isn’t running, it’s not using energy, which is saving you money. Then you have people who say if you leave it off, then turn it on when you get home, it takes more energy to get cool down the house than if you left it on all day.

According to some HVAC experts, leaving an air conditioner on all day when you’re not home is an inefficient use of energy and puts more wear and tear on the system causing it to break down more quickly.

So, if you’re planning on being out of the house for several hours, or even leave town for a few days, it’s best to turn the system off. Or better yet, invest in a programmable thermostat which can adjust the temperature according to your schedule. You can program the system to fire up right before you get home and power down when you leave for work. Using your system only when you need it is a great way to keep your energy costs down and maintain a healthy and long-lasting HVAC system.

save money on AC

What Temperature Should I Set My AC When I’m Away?

As we’ve seen, if you will be out of the house for a lengthy period, it’s best not to have your air conditioner running full throttle. But, you also want to come home to a house that’s not humid and oppressive either. So, what temperature should your thermostat be set at when you’re away?

Most experts agree that turning your thermostat up two or three degrees when you will be out of the house is a great way to save energy costs and still keep your house reasonably cool.

If you’re planning on being on a vacation, that will only last a few days, set the thermostat up four degrees higher than you would normally set it if you were home. Experts say four degrees is ideal because if you go higher than that, you risk expending more energy to cool the house down when you come back, which defeats the purpose of trying to save money by setting it higher. So, if you normally keep your thermostat at 65, turn it up to 69.

If you will be out of the house for a week or more, you can save money by turning the system completely off.

Top Tips on How To Lower Your Air Conditioning Bills

Now we’ve covered how to save money on your energy bills when it comes to leaving your air conditioner on versus turning it off when you leave, we’re turning our attention to the top ways you can save money on your energy bills when operating your air conditioner.

  1. Get Insulated A great way to keep your energy bills low is to beef up your home’s insulation. This not only keeps you cooler in the summer but also warmer in winter. Good insulation doesn’t end with the attic either. Sealing your windows to prevent the cold air from leaking out goes a long way to helping to keep your house cooler and lighten the load on your air conditioner.
  2. Get A Programmable Thermostat As mentioned earlier, a programmable thermostat is a great way to regulate and adjust the temperatures in your home when you’re away or when you’re sleeping. Many of these thermostats can be controlled via an app on your phone for extra convenience.
  3. Maintain Your HVAC System Keeping your filters clean and performing regular maintenance on your system keeps it running properly and efficiently. And when your system is running efficiently, you save money on your energy bills.
  4. Block Out The Sun If you have windows that face the sun, consider getting thick blinds or drapes to block out the rays which heat your home and cause your air conditioner to work harder to maintain the desired temperature.
  5. Use Ceiling Fans If you have ceiling fans, use them. Not only do they use less energy than your air conditioner, but they do a wonderful job of keeping you cool.

With a little forethought and diligence, you can shave money off your energy bills without sacrificing comfort, and ensure your air conditioning system lasts as long as possible.



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Are Your Air Ducts Clean? Here’s Why They Need To Be

If you consider the compressor as the heart of your HVAC system, then your ducts are the arteries. And just as with human arteries, it’s essential your ducts are clean to ensure the free flow of air, the health of your HVAC system and your physical health as well.

In this article, we look at the importance of your ductwork, how dirty ducts affect your health, and how to ensure your air ducts stay clean.

What is Air Duct Cleaning?

It might come as a surprise, but in many instances, the air in your home is more polluted than the air outside. Much of the indoor pollution comes from pet dander, dust, mold, and mildew. And when this polluted air circulates throughout the house, these pollutants can affect every member of the household including your pets.

Duct cleaning is a process by which a professional comes into your home and thoroughly cleans not only your ductwork but the components of your HVAC system including the registers. Regular cleaning is vital for maintaining your health and the health of your system and to ensure it provides you excellent service for years.

Keep in mind that dirt, dust, and debris build-up through day-to-day usage of your HVAC system, which is why routine cleaning and maintenance is essential. With that in mind, when you decide it’s time to get your ductwork cleaned, it’s advised to get an HVAC contractor who will clean the whole system because dirt in one part will eventually circulate to the rest.

Also, in some cases, professional duct cleaning involves applying chemicals to kill microbiological pollutants for deep cleaning.

If you’ve not ever had your ducts cleaned, it’s time to consider doing so, and once clean, get on a regular maintenance schedule for your ducts and your entire air conditioning system.

How Dirty Air Ducts Affect Your Health

According to the EPA, Americans spend about 90% of their time inside, and as mentioned above, in many cases the air inside your home is more polluted than the air outside. Knowing that it’s not difficult to see how dirty air can affect your health.

So, how do dirty ducts enter the equation, and what kind of health problems can you suffer from dirty ducts?

Since your air conditioner works by taking warm air out of the home, stripping out the heat, and then pumping cool air back in, dust, debris, pet dander, and germs are continuously getting sucked into the system and spread around the home.

The following are just a few of the health issues you can experience if your ducts are dirty.

  • Sore Throat
  • Increase in Allergies
  • Coughing and Upper Respiratory Infections
  • Asthma Attacks
  • Weakened Immune System

In addition to dirt, dust, debris, and pet dander that accumulate in ductwork, sometimes rodents and insects find their way in and either die or leave waste behind, and the germs and bacteria from that waste blow into your home when your air conditioner is running.

While all of these issues are bad enough when it comes to healthy people, imagine small children or elderly residents who have compromised immune systems having to deal with the health problems caused by dirty ducts.

Dirty Air Ducts

Dirty Ducts & Household Odors

Have you noticed your home not smelling as fresh as you’d like? Have you used sprays and air fresheners only to have the musty smell come back again? If so, there’s a chance the problem lies in your ductwork. Mold and mildew can build up in your ducts and put out a musty smell when you run your AC. And not only does the air smell terrible, but the presence of mold increases the chance of you and your family getting sick. And while you may have gotten somewhat used to the smell, imagine having guests over and what they’ll think about your musty-smelling house.

How To Clean Your Air Ducts

For best results, consider calling a professional duct cleaning service to get a thorough duct cleaning. However, if you’re set on doing it yourself, here are a few pointers.

  1. Put covers over your registers that supply air to the system. You can use paper towels or blankets which keeps the dust from spilling out into your rooms while you’re cleaning.
  2. Run your fan while you’re cleaning to keep the dust moving.
  3. Make sure your filter is still in place so it can absorb any dirt and prevent it from getting lodged in the fan’s motor.
  4. Dislodge the dust and debris by gently knocking on the ducts.
  5. Clean your air supply registers with a vacuum and a hose attachment. Get in as deep as you can at each register.
  6. Sweep out your air return registers in the same way you cleaned the supply registers.
  7. Turn the power off and dust out the blower compartment. This is one area where a lot of dust and dirt gathers so you’ll need to use your vacuum for this as well.
  8. Replace the dirty filter with a clean one when you’re finished. Most experts recommend getting the best filter money can buy to filter out the small particles and keep them from damaging your system and getting into your home.


How Much Does Professional Air Duct Cleaning Cost?

Thorough duct cleaning is a big job and is best left to the professionals who have the proper equipment and training. If you’re not handy or want the job done right, call in a service technician for a cleaning.

While rates vary according to how big of a home you have and how many vents are involved, you can expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $500 for professional duct cleaning. And while that might seem high, think about how better you and your family’s health will be with clean, fresh air circulating throughout, and how much nicer your home will smell too. Keeping ducts clean also ensures your system runs efficiently and lasts for as long as possible.



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