Have you ever heard of an AC capacitor? If not, you’re not alone. Most homeowners are unfamiliar with the working parts within their air conditioning systems.
However, learning about the various components and what they do can help you identify problems early on and find solutions before your AC goes out completely.
Capacitor failure in air conditioners is a fairly common problem that affects units as they age. Here’s what you need to know.
What is an AC Capacitor?
An AC capacitor is a tiny electronic component that is used to store energy and provide a surge of power. In this case, the capacitor stores up energy until your thermostat sends a signal that your air conditioner needs to start up.
At this point, the capacitor releases a quick burst of energy to provide a starting current to the compressor in your AC unit.
This is essential because the regular power running to your AC is not strong enough to start the motor on its own. The motor requires this instantaneous boost to get running. Once the motor has started, the regular power from your house is enough to keep it going.
The AC capacitor itself looks almost like a battery with two or three wires coming out of the end. The capacitor will also have a number of colored bands around the body that are used to determine exactly how much power it is rated for.
What Happens When an AC Capacitor Fails?
Typically, when an air conditioner capacitor keeps failing, it prevents the compressor motor in your system from starting up. Your system may sound like it is running, but the motor will never actually start up, and you will not receive the cold airflow you are expecting. In fact, you may hear a ticking or clicking sound from the motor instead as it tries to start up and fails.
How Long do AC Capacitors Last?
In general, capacitors are not a wearable part. All they do is receive power, store it up, and wait for the signal to discharge. However, a small percentage of these capacitors does burn out unexpectedly. This can happen for any number of reasons, and there is not much you can do to prevent it from happening.
Capacitors are built to live as long as the unit they are installed in, but changing outside temperatures and extreme conditions can cause them to break down sooner. The best thing to do is have your system regularly maintained by a certified technician who can inspect for signs of damage or wear before the capacitor really burns out.
Why do Capacitors Fail?
There are three main reasons that capacitors fail. The first is extreme heat. The capacitor is made up of metal plates along with a dielectric material inside that stores the energy. Under extreme heat, the internal materials start to break down and become unable to store energy properly. When this happens, the capacitor must be replaced.
Another common problem is that DIYers tend to install the wrong replacement capacitor when they try to do the work themselves. It is imperative to buy the correct capacitor for the unit, even if it is more expensive. Otherwise, it will just keep burning out over and over.
Finally, AC capacitors simply fail because of age. Eventually, the dielectric material inside the capacitor dries up or creates a bridge that prevents the capacitor from storing energy up. This usually happens after many years of constant usage.
What to Do When the Capacitor Fails?
When the capacitor in your AC system fails, you will probably know right away. It is important to shut your system off as soon as you notice it has failed to prevent damage to the compressor as it tries to start up. Next, you will want to call an air conditioning expert to diagnose the problem.
Technicians usually carry the most common capacitors in their trucks so they can easily identify the issue and repair it on the spot. Replacing the capacitor is not usually something you should do on your own because it can be hard to track down the right size capacitor for your system.
If you believe that your AC capacitor has failed, now is the time to call Day and Night Air. We can send one of our team members to your house right away to make sure that the capacitor is at fault, and install a new one right away so you can enjoy cool air once more. Know the warning signs and who to call when something goes wrong.