Air Conditioning 101: How Does the Compressor Work?

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Enjoying the cooling comfort of your cooling system? You have the compressor to thank for! This essential aircon part is responsible for cooling the air, and without it, the HVAC unit cannot run properly. See below on just how vital this part is, and how to determine if you have a faulty compressor in your unit.

What is An Air Conditioner Compressor?

Compressors are the focal point of HVAC systems as they are the parts that make cool air possible. Like its name suggests, an air conditioner compressor is responsible for compressing the refrigerant. It is a vital part of any air conditioner, and is what maintains gaseous refrigerant levels.

The AC compressor is located in the outdoor unit of your air conditioner. It is powered by the drive belt, and is essentially the core component of your air conditioning system. It is often called the heart of your air conditioner as it pumps coolant through the entire system.

Whether you have central air conditioning or a portable unit, the compressor works with the condenser unit and evaporator coil in the indoor unit to process refrigerant gas. The hot refrigerant travels from the evaporator unit to the compressor, and is then directed to the condenser, where the coolant travels back to the evaporator coil in a continuous cycle.

How Does an AC Compressor Work?

An AC compressor works to cool your home by compressing refrigerant into a high-pressure gas. As the warm air passes through the air conditioner, gaseous refrigerant fills the evaporator coils. These coils absorb heat, and transfer the warmed refrigerant to the outdoor unit where the condenser coils release the warm air outside.

The refrigerant then travels through a low-pressure line to be processed by the AC compressor, turning the gas refrigerant into a liquid, cooling the air that gets transferred back into the room to maintain its low temperature.

This cycle continues to run as long as the air conditioner is being used, and the room has yet to achieve the desired temperature set on the thermostat. Problems with AC compressors can be expensive, as replacement parts are priced high. No air conditioning unit can function without AC compressors, so users need to ensure proper maintenance for their compressors.

The Importance of the Compressor

The compressor is arguably the most important component of any HVAC system as it moves refrigerant from the condenser unit to the evaporator coils. Without this part, your air conditioner won't function at all, as the unit cannot process refrigerants. The refrigerant cannot cool the surrounding air, and won't be able to deliver cool air into the room. 

Diagnosing a Faulty Compressor

A faulty compressor can no longer produce cold air enough to effectively lower the temperature of the room. A faulty compressor can be identified by a number of signs, but the most prominent sign is that the air conditioning unit can no longer blow cool air. Here are the ways you can identify a faulty compressor:

#1 The Air Conditioning Unit is Emitting a Clicking Noise

If your AC unit makes clicking noises when turned on, it may mean the compressor is struggling to function properly. A faulty or failing condenser unit would make loud, buzzing sounds, but a failing compressor will emit loud, clicking noises.

#2 The Air Conditioning Unit is Tripping Circuit Breakers

Your air conditioner may be frequently tripping circuit breakers as the AC works harder to cool the air with a faulty compressor. Air conditioner may short-cycle as well as the malfunctioning compressor fails to process the refrigerant, leading to a malfunction in the entire air conditioning system.

#3 Air Conditioner is Overheating

As the faulty compressor is exerting excess force to process the refrigerant, it forces the AC unit to work harder to pump out cool air. This may cause your unit to overheat, and may blow hot air out of the vents instead. As the room temperature air passes through the unit, the compressor cannot properly process the coolant, leading to a faulty AC system.

Air Conditioner Compressor Maintenance

Is an air conditioner compressor repairable? The short answer is yes, your air conditioner's compressor can be repaired by a licensed HVAC technician for minor issues with your unit, particularly pertaining to related parts that work with the compressor. However, replacing the compressor itself might not be worth it.

Technicians may advise you to simply replace the entire unit instead of replacing a faulty compressor that is already too damaged to fix. In most cases, a compressor would cost more than half of a new air conditioning unit, which is why many technicians recommend going for a full replacement of the entire HVAC unit instead!

Compressing Issues

Contact any of our Luce Aircon technicians immediately if you spot a problem with your compressor. The compressor is the most vital part of your aircon, and the slightest issue with it should be resolved before the compressor is damaged further. Replacement compressors are notoriously expensive, so avoid the high costs with thorough HVAC services.

Give us a call or send us an email, and we'll work to get your aircon up and running again! 

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