You may not realize just how complex of a system your air conditioner is, with various wires, switches, capacitors, and a number of other components working flawlessly together in order to make the delivery of cooled air into your home possible. And troubleshooting problems with this system is certainly no easy task.
This is why we never recommend that you play around with the inside of your air conditioner yourself if you suspect something is wrong.
If your cooling system isn’t working right, even if you’re certain it’s an electrical problem—actually, especially if you’re certain it’s an electrical problem—the best thing you can do is contact a trained and experienced professional. What is likely going on is a problem with one of your capacitors, if this is the case.
Do You Have a Bad Capacitor?
First, it might help you if we explain what a capacitor is—it essentially works as a temporary battery of sorts for the motors. Capacitors store voltage and then send that voltage to the motors. Most motors have two of these capacitors, one to start it up and the other to keep it running. Capacitors absolutely do need to be replaced on occasion and will not last the entire life of your air conditioner.
So how do you know if one of yours has gone bad? Some possible symptoms to watch out for include:
- Your air conditioner taking awhile to start once it’s turned on.
- A humming noise coming from the system.
- The AC shutting off on its own rather than when the thermostat signals it to.
- The AC not starting up at all.
- A clicking sound coming from the AC cabinet.
If any of these sound familiar, it could very well be a bad capacitor you’re looking at.
Trying to Run Your AC with a Failing Capacitor
The most common problem that a failing capacitor causes is what’s called “hard starting. This is when the compressor of your air conditioner has a hard time starting up, and then “booms” when it does come on.
A hard-starting air conditioning system is much more likely to suffer a full breakdown, due to the extra stress placed on its components. This is particularly damaging when it comes to the compressor. The compressor is essentially the heart of your air conditioner, so if it overheats and fails, it will need to be replaced.
A compressor replacement is not a cheap job, and actually in almost all cases it’s more cost-effective to replace the whole air conditioning system rather than just the compressor. This means you may be buying an AC unit far sooner than you planned for your budget.
Hard starting also creates a spike in energy bills, since AC systems use the most power during their start-up cycle, and when they cycle off. If you notice hard-starting or any other peculiar symptoms coming from your air conditioning system, the best thing you can do is call in a pro right away. Even if a failing capacitor isn’t the problem, managing whatever is the problem is essential to saving energy and money.