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What is an AC Compressor?

The AC compressor serves as the vital heart of your air conditioning system. Its primary role involves the circulation and pressurization of the refrigerant within your unit, enabling the refrigerant to transport and release heat. Without this continuous movement and heat release by the refrigerant, your air conditioner would be unable to generate cool air, leaving your home in a persistently warm state. In essence, the compressor is the essential component that ensures your unit's proper functioning.


Image of HVAC company World's Greatest Heating and Air logo featuring a globe and yellow text against a purple galaxy background, featuring a white square with text defining an ac compressor Serving Duval and St. Johns County, Florida, this HVAC company offers expert services in heating and air conditioning.

The Role of the AC Compressor

While it is one of the most important parts of your air conditioner, the compressor can also be one of the most expensive parts to replace. It’s crucial you understand how your AC compressor works and what to look for when you suspect it might be failing, so you can maintain a comfortably cool home all summer long.


The AC compressor is a vital part of your air conditioning system. In central AC setups, the system is split with the air conditioner outside and the heating component inside. Packaged ACs have everything outdoors. Regardless of setup, the compressor is always outside and should be checked by an HVAC pro.

The compressor, powered by a motor, circulates and energizes the refrigerant, a cooling chemical. It absorbs heat and humidity from your home, then releases it outside to cool your space. But it can't work without the compressor.

The refrigerant goes from liquid to gas in the AC, and the compressor turns it into high-pressure gas while making it hotter than outside. Then, it goes to the condenser coil to release heat and humidity, turning back into a liquid.

The condenser coil is crucial because it moves heat and humidity out of your home. Without it, your AC would keep recycling warm air, and your home wouldn't cool down. Thanks to the compressor, your home cools efficiently.


Signs of a Failing AC Compressor

If your air conditioner's compressor stops working, your whole cooling system is at risk, and you'll need to troubleshoot your AC. Remember, the compressor carries high voltage, so only a licensed HVAC technician should handle it to avoid accidents. But, you can keep an eye out for signs that indicate it's time to call a pro:

  1. Consistent Home Temperature: If your AC is on, but your indoor temperature doesn't change, it may mean your compressor isn't working. The compressor should expel hot air outside, and if it's not, your home won't cool down.

  2. Lukewarm or Cool Air Outside: The compressor is in the outdoor unit and should release hot air when it's working correctly. You can check by standing near the outdoor fan without touching the unit. If you feel lukewarm or cold air, there may be an issue.

  3. Unusual Noises: A functioning AC should make smooth sounds, like a gentle hum. Strange noises like banging, hissing, clattering, or screeching suggest a problem with the compressor or another part of your AC, requiring professional help.

  4. Leaks Around the Unit: If you see a leak around your air conditioner outdoors, avoid it. It might be a refrigerant leak, signaling an issue with the AC compressor or cooling cycle. Refrigerant is dangerous, and only an HVAC pro should handle it.


AC compressor replacement: What to consider

If you suspect your AC compressor might be failing, you're probably wondering whether to repair it or replace your entire air conditioner. To make an informed decision, follow these steps:

  1. Consult an HVAC professional to confirm the compressor issue and check for any other unit problems.

  2. Consider the age of your air conditioner and whether it's nearing the end of its lifespan.

  3. Check if your unit is still under warranty for new parts.

  4. Compare the cost of replacing the AC compressor with the cost of replacing the entire unit.

These factors will help you determine the best course of action for your cooling system.


AC Compressor Maintenance

AC maintenance is not a DIY task, and this includes AC compressor maintenance. It's crucial to leave compressor maintenance to a licensed HVAC professional. However, there are a couple of things you can do yourself to keep your AC unit in good shape:

  1. Ensure that there are no obstructions or objects on top of or blocking your air conditioner that could hinder its performance.

  2. Regularly replace your AC filters as required.

For the rest of your AC compressor maintenance, rely on an HVAC expert. During their service, they will ensure that your compressor and the entire unit are functioning correctly. Additionally, they'll clean your condenser coil, which works alongside the compressor to expel hot air. With proper maintenance, your AC compressor can have a lifespan of up to 15 years!


AC Compressor Bottom Line

The AC compressor is responsible for pressurizing the refrigerant so it’s able to release heat and humidity from your home outside. Without the AC compressor, your air conditioning unit wouldn’t be able to function properly. Home AC compressors can be expensive to replace, so it’s important you get your unit serviced regularly by an HVAC professional and know the warning signs of a broken compressor.


World's Greatest Heating and Air logo featuring a globe and yellow text with the tagline 'Maybe...Even...The Universe'. Located in Duval and St. Johns County, Florida, serving the HVAC and air conditioning needs with honesty and excellence.

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The AC compressor, vital for cooling systems, pressurizes refrigerant gas, enabling efficient heat transfer. HVAC Contractor Plantation professionals have installed compressor to circulate refrigerant, facilitating the cooling process when my ac was not working properly. Compressors play a pivotal role in maintaining indoor comfort by ensuring proper cooling system functionality and temperature regulation.

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