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AIR CONDITIONING & HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS
A/C - HEAT PUMP CONTROLS & SWITCHES
AIR CONDITIONER COMPONENT PARTS
AIR CONDITIONER TYPES, ENERGY SOURCES
AIR FILTER EFFICIENCY
AIR FILTERS, FIBERGLASS PARTICLES
AIR FLOW MEASUREMENT CFM
APPLIANCE DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
APPLIANCE EFFICIENCY RATINGS
BLOWER DOORS & AIR INFILTRATION
BLOWER FAN CONTINUOUS OPERATION
BLOWER FAN OPERATION & TESTING
BOOKSTORE - Air Conditioning "How To" Books
CAPACITORS for HARD STARTING MOTORS
CLEANING & Legionella BACTERIA
CHINESE DRYWALL HAZARDS
CONDENSATION or SWEATING PIPES, TANKS
DEFINITION of HEATING & COOLING TERMS
DEW POINT CALCULATION for WALLS
DEW POINT TABLE - CONDENSATION POINT GUIDE
DIAGNOSTIC GUIDES A/C / HEAT PUMP
DIAGNOSE & FIX HEATING PROBLEMS-BOILER
DIAGNOSE & FIX HEATING PROBLEMS-FURNACE
DUCTS - Asbestos
DUCT INSULATION, Asbestos Paper
DUCT INSULATION for SOUNDPROOFING
DUCT SYSTEM & DUCT DEFECTS
DUCT SYSTEM NOISES
DUCTS, Asbestos Transite Pipe
DUST, HVAC CONTAMINATION STUDY
ELECTRIC MOTOR OVERLOAD RESET SWITCH
EVAPORATIVE COOLING SYSTEMS
FAN LIMIT SWITCH
FAN NOISES, HVAC
GAS EXPOSURE EFFECTS, TOXIC
GAS DETECTION INSTRUMENTS
HEAT LOSS (or GAIN) in buildings
HEAT LOSS (or GAIN) INDICATORS
HEAT LOSS R U & K VALUE CALCULATION
HEATING SMALL LOADS
INSPECTION CHECKLIST - OUTDOOR UNIT
INSPECTION LIMITATIONS, A/C SYSTEMS
LEED GREEN BUILDING CERTIFICATION
LOST COOLING CAPACITY
LOW VOLTAGE TRANSFORMER TEST
MOTOR OVERLOAD RESET SWITCH
MOLD in AIR HANDLERS & DUCT WORK
OPERATING COST, AIR CONDITIONER
OPERATING DEFECTS, AIR CONDITIONING
REPAIR GUIDES A/C / HEAT PUMP
REPAIR & DIAGNOSTIC FAQs for A/C
THERMOSTATS, HEATING / COOLING
THERMOSTATIC EXPANSION VALVES
WATER COOLED AIR CONDITIONERS
WINDOW / WALL AIR CONDITIONERS
WINDOW / WALL A/C SUPPORTS
Compressor-condenser unit diagnostic procedures: how to diagnose an outdoor air conditioning or heat pump compressor/condenser unit that is not working, won't start, noisy, or humming. This article summarizes common HVAC compressor condenser unit problems and their diagnosis. We link to more detailed HVAC compressor repair procedures.
This article forms part of our series on how to diagnose an air conditioner or heat pump that is not cooling: this article explains how to diagnose and correct air conditioning problems like lost or reduced air conditioner cooling capacity, reduced or no cool air flow, reduced or no actual lowering of the air temperaturer, or an air conditioner that won't start.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2014 InspectApedia.com, All Rights Reserved.
If your air conditioner or heat pump won't start, we suggest beginning diagnostics indoors at the room thermostat. If you haven't done that you might want to go back to see AIR CONDITIONER WON'T START before continuing here.
Compressor problems - Air Conditioner Compressor: problems such as an aging air conditioner compressor motor that is at or near the end of its life may be unable to
properly compress the returning refrigerant gas to a sufficiently high pressure. A service technician will need to evaluate and test the system
and if needed, replace the compressor.
Variations in line voltage can lead to improper compressor operation and loss of cooling output.
If the Compressor/Condenser Does Not Start At All
Silent compressor/condenser motors: relays on the control board for the compressor/condenser unit start the compressor motor and the condenser unit's cooling fan individually, but they may be related as we'll explain. Check the outdoor components in this order:
1. Is there power to the compressor/condenser unit? Check that the main circuit breaker or fuse is on, that the outdoor service switch is on. If the compressor/condenser circuit's main breaker is tripped or fuse blown the system may have a seized compressor motor or a shorted electrical wire. Back at AIR CONDITIONER WON'T START we reminded you to check that the thermostat was calling for cooling. If you forgot to do that, go back and check that article.
2. Is the refrigerant pressure in the system at the pressure level equivalent for the ambient temperature at the condenser unit? Modern compressor units include both high and low refrigerant pressure safety cut-out switches that can shut down the equipment in abnormal conditions.
3. Is the line voltage delivered to the compressor/condenser unit normal? Occasionally low voltage will prevent equipment from operating or will shut it down. Low voltage can also mean motors have trouble starting or run at abnormal power levels.
4. Is electrical power delivered to the compressor & to the condenser fan? Look for burned, shorted, disconnected wires supplying these two motors.
5. Is voltage being delivered to the start relay - the compressor contactor? If you see control voltage (typically 24VAC) at the contactor and you have line voltage to the compressor/condenser unit but the relay does not pull in then probably the contactor is bad (or there is a blown fuse on the control circuit board). Next we give diagnostic steps for the following situations
If the compressor motor start relay does not pull in (close) then it is not asking the compressor to run. Check:
Air Conditioner Compressor Diagnosis: How to Diagnose & Repair an Air Conditioner Compressor Which has Lost Cooling Capacity
A compressor which appears to have lost cooling capacity can be diagnosed by a service technician who can connect the appropriate test gauges to the system. Lower than normal discharge pressure and higher than normal suction vacuum will indicate this problem.
But before assuming that something is wrong with the air conditioning compressor, some basic investigation is in order.
Unless there is an obvious indication of a compressor problem (noise, hard starting, compressor won't start), the service technician, to be thorough and economical, will inspect the system in an order, checking the easy and least-costly problems first, such as presence of electrical power, proper setting and operation of system controls, condition of filters, condition of duct work, operation of blower fans, before moving on to check the compressor itself by looking at the air conditioner operating temperatures, pressures, and current draw in Amps.
Check the Outside Air Conditioning /Heat Pump Compressor-Condenser unit
Is the outdoor compressor-fan unit (COMPRESSOR & CONDENSING COIL) running?
If you cannot find your air conditioner controls and switches see A/C - HEAT PUMP CONTROLS & SWITCHES - list of controls and switches found on air conditioners and heat pumps
Also check the compressor/condenser outdoor fan and fan motor
Condensing unit fan diagnostics: at FAN, COMPRESSOR/CONDENSER UNIT we explain the diagnosis of problems with the compressor/condenser fan and fan motor.
Also see ELECTRIC MOTOR DIAGNOSTIC GUIDE.
At BURNED-OUT COMPRESSOR we explain that if the condensing unit fan is not working the compressor itself may shut down or even be ruined by overpressure or over temperature.
Also see NOISES, COMPRESSOR CONDENSER where some noise problems are traced to the cooling fan .
Cooling Capacity of the Air Conditioning Equipment
The cooling capacity of an air conditioning equipment refers to the ability of the compressor/condenser (usually outside) and the air handler/evaporator (usually inside) to deliver cool air to the occupied space.
Briefly, the compressor/condenser draws refrigerant gas from the building air handler, compresses it and cools it back to a liquid refrigerant, and the air handler/evaporator coil permits liquid refrigerant to evaporate inside a cooling coil, across which the fan blows building air to cool and dehumidify it.
combination of this equipment has a cooling capacity, usually rated in BTUh or thousands of BTU's of cooling capacity per hour,
documented on equipment data tags discussed
Also see COOLING RULES OF THUMB to guesstimate how many tons or BTUs of cooling a building needs
Long On-Cycles: Air Conditioner or Heat Pump Long on cycle and Insufficient Cooling - Loose or Worn Compressors
A longer than normal on cycle combined with little or no cool air conditioner output could be due to
What about the opposite problem: too-short compressor on-cycles? See SHORT CYCLING AC COMPRESSOR
Low air conditioner motor amperage draw
Low amperage draw: unlike a high-amp current draw which indicates that the compressor is danged internally in a way that its piston(s) is(are) tight in the cylinder, a low-amp current draw, if below normal, may confirm internal wear on the compressor parts, and would support the diagnosis that the compressor is worn and inefficient.
Where there are no gauge ports to actually measure compressor low side and high side vacuum and pressure, this simple electrical test is a useful first step.
See ELECTRIC MOTOR DIAGNOSTIC GUIDE for how-to details.
If you have the opposite concern, that is the A/C compressor is turning on and off too frequently,
Abnormal air conditioner compressor pressure readings
Refrigerant line pressure readings which are abnormal (probably too low) on the high pressure side (compressor output) or
on the low pressure side (compressor input or suction line) can indicate a problem with the compressor's ability to
develop normal operating pressure ranges and thus will affect the cooling capacity of the air conditioning system.
For more details on air conditioner refrigerant line pressures and how they are examined
Details about air conditioning compressor functions, how air conditioner compressors work, what goes wrong with air conditioner compressors, and how to measure and diagnose air conditioner compressors are provided
Compressor/Condenser Cooling: Can Cooling Down the Air Conditioner Compressor Motor with Water Keep the A/C Working?
Several readers have described a step of cooling down an overheated air conditioning or heat pump compressor motor to get it running again producing cool air indoors. One reader used a garden hose to spray the outdoor unit (after all it's intended to tolerate being rained-on). Another used a watering can. A third, buckets of water.
All three reported that this step got their cooling system cooling again when before either the compressor had stopped running entirely or it was running but the system was not producing cool air. But for several reasons this is not an effective durable repair:
While we wait for more comments from air conditioning service technicians and experts (CONTACT us), here are some interpretations of what may be going on:
Continue reading at COMPRESSOR & CONDENSING COIL or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
Green link shows where you are in this article series.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: My Air Conditioner won't turn off - what to do?
Carla said: My outside air unit will not turn off on its own. I have to manually turn the breaker off to turn it off. Does anyone know why or how I can fix it?
Carla if your A/C won't turn off it could be that the thermostat is set to a temperature that the system cannot reach - due to lost cooling or due to a setting below the capability of the system. If your A/C won't turn off even if you set the thermostat to a temperature that is above the current room temp, then the thermostat or an A/C control board or switch is bad and needs replacement - in that case you need a service call from a trained HVAC Technician. See OPERATING TEMPERATURES HVAC and also CONTROLS & SWITCHES, A/C - HEAT PUMP
Question: My Air Conditioner (or heat pump) keeps cycling on and off too rapidly - what might be wrong? short A/C on-cycle problems
Joe said: short cycling air conditioner compressor diagnosis: I have the same problem as Mathew: my A/C compressor cycles on and of every ~10 seconds. I is about 5yr old. What can we do to fix this system. Please help. Thanks!
Matthew said: short cycling air conditioner problems: Our air conditioning compressor cycles on and of every few seconds or minutes. What can we do to fix this systems not even a year old
Five causes of a home air conditioner compressor short cycling on and off too rapidly - Short Cycling Air Conditioner Diagnosis & Repair
DanJoeFriedman (mod) said to Joe and Matthew (re questions just above):
In sum, you need a service call from a professional to correctly diagnose and repair the problem. Ask the service tech what she/he found and let us know - what you find will help other readers.
If your air conditioner or heat pump has the opposite problem, staying on too long, see LONG-ON CYCLING AC COMPRESSOR.
Question: Why is my A/C not producing enough cool air?
A/C not producing enough cool air - I had my air conditioning system gassed up last week - $210. ! The unit is not producing enough cold air. The unit is set on 72 and does great at nights but during the day where the temp. outside is reaching mid 90"s it's getting up to 80 in the house. Is my duct work screwed up? How do you repair trailer metal ducting? - Amanda
90 degrees outside and 83 inside with thermometer at 76. Cools off to 76 when sun starts to go down and house then gets cold. New capacitor and condensor just put in. Help. - Ginny 5/17/12
Amanda: if your system is not cooling there could be any of a number of problems - see the article above as a place to start. If your basic complaint is that the A/C temperature at the supply registers is cool enough but the volume of air flow is too weak, we'd start by:
Weak air conditioner air flow - is there a relationship between refrigerant charge level and weak cool air flow rate?
Les said: Weak air conditioner air flow: Our A/C was serviced two months ago and the repairman said it had a leak. $400 later it was recharged with coolant and now the ac is doing the same thing. Very little pressure coming out of vents and no cold air coming out. Does anyone know what I can do for the weekend? It is stifling!!!! See A/C Air Duct Problems
DanJoeFriedman (mod) said:
Les: A leak that was fixed by a re-charge is not as good a repair as a leak that was fixed by finding and fixing the leak - you'll just have to keep adding refrigerant.
But weak air flow out of the vents would not be due to a refrigerant leak; more likely a clogged filter or crushed or disconnected ductwork, or a blower fan problem.
Weak air Flow traced to Clogged Air Filters: Can Clogged Air Filters Affect the Room Thermostat?
(May 13, 2011) Jim said: If air conditioner filters are clogged will it cause the thermostat to shut off?
Jim: clogged A/C filters won't cause a room thermostat to shut off. The thermostat responds to room temperature. However clogged A/C filters that reduce air flow, cause coil frosting, or otherwise reduce or stop the flow of cool air into the room where the thermostat is located would mean that the thermostat would remain "un-satisfied" and should mean that the thermostat says "on" - continuing to call for cooling. See AIR FILTERS for HVAC SYSTEMS
Air Filters & Cooling System Amperage Draw: Could Removing the Air Filters Cause the Electric Motor in the Air Handler to Draw Higher Amps?
Question: got one for you. i put an ammeter on my air handler and it read 8.25 amps, I removed the filters and it went up to 9.75 lmao at the situation the amperage should have gone down. what gives here
Reply: causes of variations in electric motor efficiency and current draw measured in amps
Lost: this amps variation is beyond my expertise, but in general reducing the load on an electric motor will show up as lower amps or current draw, not higher amps. Here are two interesting explanations of amps or current variations on an electric motor that I found when researching the question:
2. Load variations and electric motor efficiency: A second possible source of seeing higher amps or current draw on your blower motor when you pulled out the air filters and thus reduced the load on the blower motor might be illuminated by this U.S. DOE pamphlet "Determining Electric Motor Load and Efficiency" - Quoting: "Most electric motors are designed to run at 50% to 100% of rated load. Maximum efficiency is usually near 75% of rated load. Thus, a 10-horsepower (hp) motor has an acceptable load range of 5 to 10 hp; peak efficiency is at 7.5 hp. A motor’s efficiency tends to decrease dramatically below about 50% load."
Question: what causes warm suction lines in an air conditioner or heat pump system? Warm A/C suction line (should be cold) and zone control dampers that stopped working
JMONTE said: warm A/C suction line question: After my condenser is turned on for about 4 minutes the suction line starts to get warm to the touch. can you tell me what the problem may be
JMONTE: If the HVAC suction line gets warm, you may be out of refrigerant, or the system may be running in heating mode if it's a heat pump. See OPERATING TEMPERATURES HVAC.
Becky, If a motorized HVAC zone control damper is not opening or closing, most likely the motor has failed, or the thermostat that operates that zone control is off or set in an incorrect position. See ZONE DAMPER CONTROLS
Becky said: motorized air conditioning zone dampers not working
My house has "zone" control with dampeners to close off the upstairs over the garage room unless that thermostat is on - the room is not cooling. I have located the damper under the house. What are some causes for the damper not opening and how to repair them? condensation, motor to damper? silicon glued properly?
Question: outside [compressor condenser] fan does not turn on
(Aug 2, 2011) raten said:
outside fan doesnt turn on
Raten for an outside fan that does not turn on we give some diagnostic suggestions above in this article COMPRESSOR CONDENSER DIAGNOSTICS
Start by assuring that the unit has power and that your thermostat is calling for cooling.
Your service tech may then check the fan relay, wiring, and fan motor, or the motor start/run capacitor. See CAPACITORS for HARD STARTING MOTORS
For an indoor blower fan that is not working properly start at BLOWER FAN OPERATION & TESTING
Question: A/C system starts then shuts off
(June 8, 2012) Renee said:
My AC unit during the hot and humid months here in FL, will not run without some help from me. Lets say it is 80 degrees and you set the thermostat at 75, it will run until temp drops about 3 degrees, then shuts off. You then need to shut the unit off via the thermostat, for approx. 20-30 mins turn it back on in order for the air to start blowing again. I tried changing out the thermostat but this has not helped. What could be the problem?
Renee, often when shutting off the A/C returns the delivery of cool air we trace that problem to frost formation on the cooling coil. Click on FROST BUILD-UP on AIR CONDITIONER COILS check for, diagnose, & repair that problem. But first, make sure that your air filter is not debris clogged.
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