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What’s an AC Compressor (and Why Does It Matter)?

compressor-inside-outdoor-ac-unitWhen you envision your air conditioning system, you probably think about the single, large outdoor unit, and network of ducts, in addition to the indoor unit. But your central air conditioner is so much more than just these three parts. Think about it—you have your thermostat, you have electrical components, you have refrigerant, your air filter, the blower fan, and most importantly, the compressor!

The Heart of Your Air Conditioner

Your cooling system’s compressor is one of the most important components there is. It’s the unit that enables your air conditioning system to operate at all. Essentially, when you think about it, it serves as the “heart” of your air conditioner.

It’s located in the outside unit of your cooling system, and as refrigerant moves to that outdoor unit—called the condenser—the compressor adds pressure and heat to the refrigerant. This added pressure helps to keep it pumping and circulating throughout the entire system. That refrigerant has to stay under a certain amount of pressure in order to release heat as well.

When a compressor runs into problems, it often means problems for your entire air conditioner. It’s rare that a compressor can be replaced without the need to upgrade the whole cooling system. This is why it matters that you understand its function, and take proper care to prevent compressor damage. How can you do this?

Schedule Routine AC Maintenance!

This is truly the best way to protect the compressor in your air conditioner from burning out. There are a number of important functions of routine preventive maintenance, but the #1 advantage of such a service is that it eases strain on the compressor.

A healthy compressor helps keep the whole air conditioner in good shape and ensures it will reach the end of its intended lifespan rather than breaking down early. During maintenance, we’ll look for specific problems that can impact your compressor’s health, such as:

  • Loss of Lubrication: If your AC compressor’s moving parts aren’t being properly lubricated—which is an important part of maintenance—it causes too much friction, and the system can seize up and burnout.
  • Dirty Oil: Similar to your vehicle, if the oil in your AC compressor becomes viscous, it will ruin the motor and cause a system failure.
  • Acid and Moisture: Moisture in the compressor is a common concern, particularly with our rainier and more humid months. Acid build-up is actually pretty common, too. But during your maintenance session, our professionals check on these things to ensure you’re not experiencing any problems.
  • Failed Fan: A broken outdoor fan in your air conditioner is an unfortunate problem to have in general—but if you let the system operate despite a broken fan for too long, then the compressor can burn out. This happens because the fan isn’t able to vent heat out as the compressor runs.

While maintenance is key to ensuring the good health of your air conditioner, there are also ways to tell if your compressor might be suffering. For instance, if you notice your AC system hard-starting, this could be the sign of a compressor issue. Or, if your air is coming in lukewarm, it may be the sign of a refrigerant leak—which will eventually have a negative impact on your compressor too.

When you need a trustworthy HVAC company in Salem, OR, look no further than Comfort Flow Heating. Contact us today!

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