10 Jun

What You Should Know About the Air Conditioning Compressor

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When the heat and humidity of summer kicks in, the refreshing blast of your air conditioning can feel magical. Of course, we know it’s science and not magic that allows your home to stay cool and comfortable while it’s scorching outside. But do you know how central air conditioning actually works? 

Today, we’re going to focus on one of the most important parts of the AC system – the compressor. Here are answers to questions you may have been wondering but were too afraid to ask.

A modern HVAC system requires occasional maintenance from expert technicians.

By John Royal at Shutterstock

Where is the compressor?

The traditional central air condition system has two main units. The condenser is located within the outdoor unit. When you hear the AC running and it sounds like a motor, that is the condenser operating. 

What does the compressor do?

You could call the compressor that heart of the AC because it pumps refrigerant through the system – just like our heart pumps blood through our body. To be more technical, the compressor’s job is to increase the temperature and pressure of the gas refrigerant. This pressure circulates the refrigerant back to the evaporator coil. 

Once the refrigerant is pumped back to the inside unit, it is cooler and absorbs heat from the indoor air. This warm air is recirculated back to the outdoor unit, and is released. And the cycle repeats until the indoor air reaches the temperature you set on the thermostat, which means the AC shuts off until it’s needed again. 

What happens when there’s a problem with the compressor?

If the compressor overheats or malfunctions, it won’t be able to pump refrigerant through the system. That means hot air will be trapped inside your home. 

There could be many reasons that a compressor stops working, including worn-out valves, an electrical issue, a refrigerant leak, and more. Because this is a complicated component, it’s very difficult for homeowners to diagnose and fix the problem on their own.

How to keep the compressor working properly?

When properly maintained, an air conditioning system should last you about 15-20 years. There are a few simple tasks you can do to keep the condenser working as long as possible.

  • Avoid covering or surrounding the outdoor unit – airflow is important for the AC to release hot air from inside as well as keep the condenser cool. Try to keep a three-foot space between the outdoor unit and furniture, landscaping, or anything else that could block the airflow.
  • Clean out the condenser fins – if you see leaves, dirt, or other debris stuck in the fins of the outdoor unit, brush or rinse it out. Anything that clogs up the venting can cause the condenser to work harder and overheat.
  • Schedule regular maintenance – the condenser needs all the other components working properly in order to do its job. A professional AC tune-up makes sure that external and internal parts are clean and in good condition. This maintenance can improve the performance and efficiency of your compressor and the entire AC system. 

Air conditioning service in Fredericksburg

Understanding what the compressor does and how the air conditioning works can help you identify and perhaps even prevent issues with your system.

If you want to be proactive with an AC tune-up or notice that something with your unit is not working properly, contat the air conditioning experts at Robert B. Payne, Inc. To schedule a service appointment, call (540) 373-5876 or send us a message.