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Gowland's Heating & A/C Blog

Capacitors: An AC Part That Can Fail on You This Time of Year

fan
Spinning fan closeup.

The final heat of the year can often bring the need for a major central air conditioning repair in Slidell, LA. Any home AC has already seen plenty of extreme heat this year, and if it’s managed this far without needing repairs, that’s great. (In fact, we’d wager the reason is that the system received professional maintenance in spring—no better way to prepare an AC for the “battle” with summer weather than with a pro tune-up before the season.)

As your AC comes to the finish line for the year, there are several malfunctions that may crop up because of the long strain. Even the best maintenance in the world can’t stop all malfunctions from a stressful summer. One common trouble air conditioners can encounter at this period is failed capacitors. This is an easy malfunction for our technicians to fix, so as long as you watch out for it and know the signs it’s occurring, you should have an easy end to hot weather.

The Capacitors

What’s a capacitor? There are many types, and you’ll find them in powerful electronic appliances and devices. The basic function of a capacitor is to temporarily store an electric charge and then send it to a motor, much like a battery. Capacitors are used to modulate voltage for motors to start them up and then keep them going. Most motors will have two capacitors: the “start” capacitor and the “run” capacitor, which respectively start a motor and keep it running. 

Capacitors in an Air Conditioner

An air conditioner has several motors that use capacitors: the blower motor, the outdoor fan motor, and the compressor motor. Each has a set of run and start capacitors. If a capacitor fails, its motors will either not start or start up and then soon shut back down. Losing the operation of any of the motors in an AC will stop it from providing comfort to the house, either because the blower fan isn’t moving air through the ventilation system or because the loss of the capacitor or the exhaust fan makes it impossible for the AC to vent heat to the outside. 

Capacitors in Danger

A capacitor is a temporary electronic component that is not meant to last longer than the AC. Capacitors often need replacement before the air conditioner’s service life is over. Intense heat is one of the main sources of capacitor failure: long exposure to heat lowers a capacitor’s ability to hold a charge. A long period of hot weather can put the capacitors in the outdoor unit in jeopardy.

Capacitor Warnings

There are several warning signs of a capacitor that’s failing. Clicking noises that occur when the motors are running that you don’t normally hear are one of the main ones. When an AC has trouble with hard-starting (drawing on more power to start up than usual), it’s often an issue with capacitors. And there are also the big signs: motors that don’t run or won’t stay running.

Only rely on professionals to replace a failed capacitor. It’s hazardous to tamper with this component if you’re an amateur, and putting in the wrong size capacitors can ruin the whole air conditioning system. 

At Gowland’s Heating & A/C, we value “Relationship Over Revenue!” Call us—we’re available at your convenience, not ours.

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