What Does a Central Air Conditioner Compressor Do?

If you enjoy the cold air your central air conditioner puts out on a hot summer’s day, you can thank the compressor. It’s the workhorse of the AC unit, and ensures things stay cool when the temperature outside is getting hot. The compressor is so important to your unit working properly, that it should be cared for as such. 

What Does a Central Air Conditioner Compressor Do?

What makes the compressor so important? Its job is to pump refrigerant through the system, similar to how our own hearts pump blood through our systems. Refrigerant is a fluid that absorbs heat, and carries out of your home. This works through the condenser pumping refrigerant from the condenser in the outside part of the unit to the evaporator, on the inside part of the unit. While it’s doing this, the refrigerant is collecting heat, and putting it outside your home. 

As the refrigerant collects more heat, it starts to turn into a vapor. When it’s collected all of the heat it can handle, the refrigerant goes back to the compressor, bringing the heat with it. Then, the compressor takes in the refrigerant, and heats it up until it’s a superheated gas. The refrigerant then starts to turn back into a liquid, as it loses more and more heat to the outdoors. 

Once most of the heat is removed from the refrigerant, the compressor sends it back to the indoor unit, where it cycles through again, until your home is cooled to the temperature you’ve set. 

Ways to Keep Your Compressor in Good Shape

The compressor in an AC unit is a pricey component to fix. For that reason, it makes sense to keep it in good shape. When kept in good shape, a compressor can last anywhere from 10-to15 years. Obviously, if not maintained, it may not last nearly that long. 

  1. Make sure any trees, shrubs, or buses are trimmed back from your unit outside. They should be at least three feet away, in order to allow the unit to operate properly. Don’t use decorative covers, or anything that inhibits airflow in the unit. 
  1. The condenser fins need to be cleaned regularly. Dust, debris, and dirt can all make your system less efficient, and cause problems in cooling your home by wreaking havoc on the “heat dump” phase the refrigerant goes through. This can also damage the compressor. It’s probably best to use a coil cleaner specifically made for air conditioning units. Once you’ve cleaned them, you can rinse them off with a hose. 
  1. It’s important to recognize the signs of low refrigerant, as this can cause issues as well. This usually happens with a refrigerant leak. When the system is low on refrigerant, it has to work harder in order to cool your home. This can create strain on the various components, and result in a lack of cool in your home. Signs that this may be happening include your home not cooling, despite the unit being on and running, higher than usual electric bills, ice or frost on refrigerant coils, and noises coming from refrigerant lines. If you suspect this is what’s happening with your unit, it’s important to call a licensed professional to fix the issue. 
  1. This is a no-brainer, but we’re all so busy, it can be tough to remember that regular AC maintenance checks are vital for the health of your unit. 

If you’re having issues with the compressor in your central air conditioning unit, or any other issues, ​​call the professionals at Baylor Heating & Air Conditioning. They’ve been keeping Evansville, IN, homes comfortable and safe since 1984. If you have an issue with your unit, don’t ignore the issue and hope it will fix itself (it won’t). Make us your first call at (812) 425-8435.

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