Nothing can dampen your enthusiasm for a summer in Phoenix like an air conditioner that doesn’t keep your home cool and comfortable. If you live in an area where conditions are hot and muggy for most of the year, this is an even bigger problem. In addition to the rise in temperature, a malfunctioning unit allows the humidity to build up in your home, compounding the discomfort. In extreme cases, the moisture can damage your home’s interior and exterior, as well as reducing indoor air quality. A malfunctioning unit is more expensive to run as well since it is less efficient overall.
In order to diagnose a problem with your outdoor AC unit, you need to understand how your central unit works. Your home has something in common with the walls of your refrigerator. They both contain the cooler air that the AC unit blows into your home. Your outdoor air conditioning unit has two fans. The one on the inside of the unit blows cold air into the house. The one on the outside blows air across the coils to remove the heat from the air to cool it. When either of these fans is not functioning correctly, the efficiency of your unit is compromised.
It’s easy enough to figure out if the fan on your unit is spinning. You can walk outside and listen for a humming sound to tell you that the blades are turning. You can also visually evaluate whether the fan is operating. If you hear the hum but don’t see the blades moving, you may have a capacitor problem.
If you observe the AC condenser fan not spinning on your outdoor air conditioning unit, the problem is likely one of a few common things.
- If the compressor is working, but the fan won’t turn, then the problem is most likely with the motor and/or capacitor.
- If you don’t hear any sounds to indicate that the compressor is working, and the fan isn’t spinning, the most common causes are a lack of power or a faulty compressor contactor.
Understanding the Parts of Your AC Unit
Inside your air conditioning unit, the fans turn with the assistance of motors and capacitors. You can think of the motor on a fan just like the motor in your car. Its job is to cause motion, and that motion moves the air. If the AC fan won’t spin, the entire unit is functioning inefficiently or not at all. Without the fan, the conditioned air doesn’t get moved throughout your home the way it should in order to keep the temperature and humidity under control.
If the motor is comparable to an automobile’s engine, the capacitor is comparable to the battery. The capacitor stores up energy in order to carry out its duties. The two most common types of capacitors are the run and start varieties. As you can guess from the names, run capacitors keep something running, while start capacitors provide a burst of energy to the motor to start the fan. Inside your AC unit, capacitors are paired with the indoor and outdoor fans and the compressor. The reason each component has a capacitor is that getting the fan to start turning requires more energy than keeping it spinning.
When capacitors fail, it’s usually because they lose their ability to hold a charge. Over time, the capacitors simply don’t retain energy as well. When you add in factors like exposure to extreme heat or high voltage, you can see how easy it is for external factors to cause this type of damage as well. To avoid the outside AC unit fan not spinning, preventive maintenance is the best way to go. Also, if the capacitor goes out on a fairly new unit, check your warranty documentation. Most companies do provide coverage for the capacitor for a limited period of time.
The AC Compressor Works But the Fan Doesn’t
The fan motor and the start capacitor work together to turn the fan inside your AC unit. If that isn’t happening, then the motor and/or capacitor may have malfunctioned. You may wonder, “What does a start capacitor do in this situation anyway?” This component’s job is to provide a burst of electricity to get the fan motor running. If it’s not working correctly, the motor won’t run to turn the fan blades, and the necessary air movement doesn’t occur.
While you should always be careful with electrical appliances, a few things are worth checking yourself to see if you can remedy the problem with a simple fix.
- Look to see if some type of debris might be wrapped around the fan axle. If so, remove it carefully, being careful not to damage the components.
- The bearings of the motor may need cleaning. If sludge jams the workings, the fan gets stuck or slows down. This puts stress on the motor and may burn it out. If you do need to clean the motor bearings, do this carefully so as not to damage the internal workings of the unit.
- The belt that is broken or loose can also cause a fan not to spin. Typically, this is an issue with older units, as most modern ones don’t have fan belts. It may be time to consider upgrading to a new unit. However, if you decide to change out the belts, you can buy replacements at most home improvement stores. Consult your unit’s documentation to find the exact specifications for the belt you need.
- Whether you’re talking about the ones inside your home or the ones outside that are a part of the unit itself, a dirty air filter blocks air from flowing through. As a result, ice can accumulate inside the machine and put undue pressure on the components. Replacing the filter is the easiest way to remedy this; you can find a replacement at your local hardware or home improvement store.
- You can possibly get the fan turning by pushing the fan a little with a stick or a similar object. The handle of a wooden kitchen spoon can be helpful. Do not use your fingers, though, or you may be seriously injured by the blades. Also, you should never use any metal object or any other material that will conduct electricity. If you are able to get the fan running like this, then the capacitor is probably the problem, since there is enough energy to keep it going once it’s started.
If you can’t get the fan started with any of these tips, turn off your system rather than allowing it to continually try to run. This can cause overheating and the destruction of the compressor itself, which is costly to replace or repair. Also, it’s important to note that even if these tricks do work, they may only be temporary solutions, and you should still call a technician as soon as possible to check everything out.
It’s possible to inspect the capacitor itself; however, you should never attempt this yourself unless you are comfortable and have experience with high voltage machinery and electrical currents. Since they store energy, capacitors can cause electrical shock even if the unit itself is turned off. Learn how to discharge the energy from the capacitor before you attempt repairs yourself. Also, do not touch the terminals, or you risk serious injury.
The best plan is to call in a professional at Day & Night Air, but if you just want to get a visual idea of what might be happening, here are some basic steps to performing a visual inspection.
- Turn off the electricity to the unit either at the disconnect or the breaker box. Don’t try anything else unless you are certain that the power is off.
- Find the service panel on your AC unit. Look for the capacitor; it will be a small round or cylindrical object with two or three prongs on the top.
- If you can safely see the capacitor, look for signs of trouble such as leaking, swelling of components, or rust.
- For your safety, do not touch the terminals or any leaking fluids.
- If you determine that the capacitor is damaged, call a professional for assistance. Though you can try to change it out yourself, this is a dangerous task involving high voltage.
Neither the AC Fan Nor the Compressor Works
If no sound is coming from the compressor and the fan isn’t turning, then you may not be getting power to the unit itself. Check the obvious first. Is the breaker to the unit tripped? If so, use the thermostat to turn off the unit and reset the breaker. Then turn the unit back on at the thermostat and see if that corrects the problem.
If that doesn’t work, then the problem may be with the compressor contactor. This is a part of the unit that sends power to the fan motor and the compressor. You should not try to fix this yourself. Call a professional to get the work done safely.
No Need to Sweat It Out In Phoenix This Summer
If your air conditioning unit goes out, you may not want to spend much time trying to find the problem and fix it yourself. You need to get your home back to a comfortable state as soon as possible for the health and enjoyment of your family. The best plan is to contact a competent professional like Day & Night Air and let us do what we do best. However, you can assess the situation by looking and listening to determine if the fan is running or not and if the compressor is operating as it should. By narrowing the situation down for the technician who comes out to perform the repair, you can save yourself time and frustration.