We would say summer is right around the corner, but this year in Houston, we are already seeing highs in the upper 90’s. Summer is HERE and we have been busy fixing broken ACs around the area.
One of the most common reasons we get called out in the summer months comes down to a small piece of faulty equipment: the AC capacitor.
What is an AC capacitor and how do you tell if that’s what’s causing Aunt Myrtle to sweat bullets during the baby shower you are hosting on the day your AC goes out?
What is an AC Capacitor?
Before we jump into it, as always, never attempt to work on your HVAC unit unless you have turned it off and shut down the breakers. Don’t be that person that gets electrocuted by their HVAC unit. Not cool, dude.
An AC capacitor can be found on anything that is a motor. It is the equipment that starts and charges the motor. It basically looks like a large, cylindrical battery. Your AC's capacitor is located outside in your condenser unit. It can be accessed by using a screwdriver to remove the side panel.
To power on your AC, the capacitor will send a surge of power to your AC’s motor, which kicks it on and sends cool air rushing to dear Aunt Myrtle who at this point has sweat so much she regrets wearing a white blouse.
The 4 Signs of a Bad AC Capacitor
1. No cold air coming out of the AC. Aunt Myrtle is starting to get uncomfortable at the party and she asks you to turn the AC down, you do, but no cold air comes out. This is a telltale sign that something is wrong. You can try turning your unit off and back on. If the problem persists, it is probably time to call a professional to come help.
2. You hear a humming noise. Turn your AC system on and have a good listen, is it humming or hesitant to start? This could be a sign of your capacitor failing.
3. Problems turning on. Any of the following can be signs of a capacitor issue:
4. Aging HVAC system. Unfortunately, capacitors in general are not made with high quality, so they are often one of the first things to go if your AC unit is several years old. Here in Houston, we see capacitors fail even on relatively new units due to how much we use our AC.
How to Test Your AC Capacitor
You know how grumpy Aunt Myrtle gets when she is hot and sweaty, so you need to diagnose your AC problem quickly. Here is what you can look for to tell if your capacitor is to blame:
Thankfully, there is a way to test the power charge coming from your capacitor, but it does require a tool called a multimeter that can be purchased at your local hardware store. We highly recommend having an HVAC professional come run the test unless you know how to properly remove the capacitor from the circuit and discharge the capacitor before testing. Not doing this properly could result in electrocution. Once you run your test and determine that the capacitor is not producing any charge, you’ll need to replace it with a new one which can be purchased at your local hardware store or an HVAC accessory retailer.
Call Country Air for Air Conditioning Repair
If you aren't sure the AC failure is due to a bad capacitor or maybe you tested it but aren’t sure how to replace it on your own, give Country Air a call for 24/7 HVAC help. We’ll have Aunt Myrtle smiling and happy again before the baby shower games break out. Call us to schedule your appointment today at 281-356-8564.
You probably don’t think about your trusty HVAC system often. It’s kind of like breathing, your lungs are always working to pull new air into your body but it’s not something you think about. Just like your HVAC system runs behind the scenes to keep you comfortable in your home. As long as you’re comfortable, it’s just not on your mind. But the minute dull, hot air wraps around you like a blanket while watching TV – you instantly think, “Uh oh, what’s wrong with the AC?”.
What to look for when your HVAC system starts to fail.
Luckily, you don’t have to wait until your HVAC system stops working on a 95-degree day when your friends and family are coming over in an hour to celebrate your Son’s Birthday (that’s always when it happens, right?)
Be on the lookout for signs that your HVAC system might be reaching the end of its life:
1. No cool air. Period.
If you keep turning down your thermostat lower and lower and no cool air comes out at all, it’s pretty much a dead giveaway something is wrong. It could be that you need a Freon refill or something more troublesome like a blown compressor.
2. Wacky thermostat.
One second your thermometer reads 72-degrees, the next it reads 80-degrees. If your thermostat is set to one temperature but you keep noticing a fluctuation throughout the day, it could mean your thermostat needs replacing or it could be signs of a larger problem to come.
3. Run Forest Run.
If your AC is running all day long and never stops it could mean a multitude of things – anything from a dirty air filter, to your unit being undersized, to your ducts being clogged, to your unit simply being old. Usually, it is a combination of any of these. Like a beloved dog, HVAC units have a life span of around 15 years. If your AC is running all day, it’s a good idea to have it checked to see what’s up.
4. This room’s hot – this room’s cold.
If you feel like Goldilocks going from room to room trying to find the temperature that is just right for you – your AC might be ready to call it quits. An AC that isn’t working efficiently might not be able to pump cool air to the parts of the home that are further away, resulting in rooms that are cold and rooms that are hot.
5. Something doesn’t smell right.
Did that pesky squirrel hit the dust in the attic or What. Is. That. Smell?! If you’re picking up something stinky it could mean your unit’s wiring has burned out or there could be a build up of mold and/or mildew in the duct work, AC unit or both. This growth can have negative health implications for your family so if something smells bad, it’s time to have a professional come inspect your HVAC system.
6. A decline in the quality of air.
Last summer the house felt crisp, brisk and comfortable all summer long, like taking in a breath of fresh mountain air. This summer, the air feels heavier, almost like taking a deep breath on an ozone warning day in downtown Houston. Somewhere along the way, you feel like the air quality in your home has declined. This could be due to your ducts needing a good cleaning or it could mean your compressor or capacitor is failing. Either way, it’s time to get your unit checked out.
7. That doesn’t sound right!
If you start hearing bangs, clanks, screeches, whistles, grinding or grating from your HVAC unit, something’s up – usually broken motor bearings, slipped belts, or the system just needs a good tune-up with lubrication.
8. Is that a damp spot?
Woah – that area is supposed to be dry! Maybe your refrigerant is leaking or your conduit that disposes of condensation is broken or blocked. Don’t let obvious signs of dampness go unchecked – it can lead to mildew and mold growth that will cause even more complications down the road.
9. Higher energy bill.
Ouch – that energy bill hurt to pay! If you notice your energy bills climbing at a rate that is not normal for the time of the year, it could be that your HVAC unit is not running as efficiently and needs to be inspected.
10. Multiple Breakdowns.
If your HVAC system is being maintained as it should twice a year by a professional – it shouldn’t be randomly breaking down as most common AC issues are caused by a lack of maintenance. If you notice multiple instances where you’ve had to get repairs on your unit, it’s probably a sign that your system will need replacing soon. Talking with your HVAC professional will help you determine if it’s better to replace your unit now or continue risking costly repairs in the future.
When it comes to replacing your unit – nothing goes in the same way it came out. There are always newer, more efficient units on the market and better options for your home. Our specialists at County Air will help fit a system to your home and budget’s needs so you can stay comfortable year round.
Give us a call at 281-356-8564 for any questions you may have. We are happy to provide free quotes and second opinions on HVAC system replacements.