Summers around Festus can get hot and you depend on your air conditioner to keep your family cool. However, there are little-known components, like the AC capacitor, which interrupt your AC’s job when it fails. Discover what an AC capacitor is, why it goes bad, and whether you should try to replace it yourself.
What Is an AC Capacitor?
To begin, it’s important to understand what a capacitor is and the job it performs. A capacitor is a common electrical component in many appliances, including your air conditioner. A capacitor holds an electrical charge that’s called on when the device needs a shorter burst of higher charge in addition to reducing electrical modulation.
Your air conditioner uses it to start the compressor and the condensing fan. These require a larger draw to get started than common household circuits can handle. Rather than installing an otherwise overrated system, your air conditioner uses this small component to meet the need.
To work properly, the capacitor needs the contactor. This is like a small switch that signals the capacitor to release its charge. The contractor receives a small signal from the thermostat, which causes the circuit to close. Once the circuit closes, the capacitor releases its charge to the compressor or fan motor, initiating your cooling cycle.
When the capacitor burns out, the compressor will either struggle or completely fail to start. This leads to several consequences you’ll quickly notice. First, you’ll notice a lack of cool air in your home, despite your circulating fan running. You’ll notice a significant uptick in your electrical consumption. Finally, you’ll notice other components of the system failing, such as the contractor or even the compressor.
Why Do Capacitors Go Bad?
Most companies design their capacitors to last for about 20 years under ideal conditions. However, most homes don’t have ideal conditions all the time, which means you may have to replace it before it’s time to replace the entire system. Thankfully, this is a relatively minor repair and fairly inexpensive.
Like many electrical components, heat is the biggest variable that’ll reduce your AC capacitor’s life. This can be challenging given they sit outside during the hot Missouri summer. A way to help reduce the heat impact on your capacitor is to keep your unit shaded, reducing the radiant heating of your system. By the way, this also helps make your system more efficient by reducing the strain on your compressor.
The second variable is matching the capacitor to the system properly. Larger capacitors cost more than smaller capacitors, so it’s tempting to try to save a few bucks by going smaller. However, smaller capacitors don’t offer the same charge, so it puts a larger strain on it to start the system. This not only causes the capacitor itself to wear out more quickly but also strains the rest of the system.
Signs You Need a New AC Capacitor
The best way to determine if your capacitor needs replacing is through routine professional maintenance. A technician tests the capacitor’s resistance, which can tell you if it’s functioning correctly. However, there are other signs that may indicate your capacitor is going bad.
First, you may notice the fan in your outdoor condensing unit isn’t running. This can happen when the capacitor lacks the charge to start the fan motor.
You may notice there’s no cold air coming from your vents, or that your system is short cycling. Finally, you may hear either clicking or humming coming from your outdoor unit.
Can You Replace Your AC Capacitor?
It seems like a capacitor replacement should be an easy fix. However, trying to do so can easily cause severe electrical shock to someone who isn’t properly trained.
Remember how the capacitor holds a large electrical charge? Before working on the capacitor, you have to properly discharge the component to avoid injury, even with the power off to the condensing unit. Failing to do so can cause serious injury, including accidental death in some cases. This is why we recommend leaving this service to trained professionals.
People around Festus have trusted Bone Heating & Cooling to keep them comfortable for more than 30 years. Our expert technicians provide heating and cooling installation, maintenance, and repair together with fireplace and water heater services. Call to schedule your AC repair with one of our dependable technicians today.