What Does a Compressor Do?

Source: U.S. Department of Energy – Energy Saver 101 Infographic

What Does an Air Conditioner Compressor Do?

Just like a human body needs the heart to pump blood through the body, a compressor is required to pump the refrigerant through your air conditioner. A compressor is the most vital part of any air conditioning system. In simple terms, it compresses the refrigerant into a liquid which produces the cold freon that cycles through your evaporator coil in the air handler. Once the cold freon goes through the evaporator coil in the air handler, heat from indoor air is absorbed into the refrigerant as the refrigerant turns from liquid to gas. The cooled air is distributed back to the house. The hot freon will flow through the condenser coil, where it will cool down until it reaches the compressor again. The cycle repeats until your home has reached the appropriate temperature on your thermostat.

The air handler blower will suck in the air by pulling the hot air out of your home from your return plenum, which also houses your air filter. The hot air from your home will pass through your evaporator coil to cool it as the blower distributes the cold air throughout your home. The result is a continuous cycle of heat and humidity being removed from indoor air, cool air returning to the home, and heat and humidity exiting the home. This is very important to know because if your air filter is dirty or clogged, it will cause your compressor to work twice as hard to cool down your home. This is unnecessary wear and tear on your machine.

Can you repair a compressor?

In most cases, you will need to replace the compressor if that is the root of the system not functioning correctly. If the system refrigerant has been contaminated with any dust or moisture, it can cause the compressor to fail because they are foreign materials to the part and cause a build-up. On rare occasions, if the motor inside the compressor fails to work, it may overheat, which will require the compressor to be replaced.

My air handler will run but my compressor outside is not coming on?

Good news! That may just mean your air conditioner needs maintenance. As your air handler is pulling the hot air out of your home it is also extracting the humidity. This humidity creates condensation that exits your home through your condensate line. When there is dust or debris built up in your condensate line it may clog. When the condensate line is clogged a safety switch will activate that turns off your compressor from producing any more cold air so it doesn’t create any more condensation. In turn, your system will stop pulling the humidity and producing condensation so you don’t have a major water leak inside of your home.

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