Capacitors, Contactors and Other Electrical Components That Run Your Air Conditioner

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In the early days of computers, Apple founder, Steve Jobs railed against complicated IBM-based desktops that required complex instructions to accomplish simple procedures. “You shouldn’t need an engineering degree just to use a computer. You don’t have to understand any of this stuff to use an Apple.” The same is true of air conditioners. You don’t have to know anything about electronics, wiring, refrigerant or mechanical engineering to enjoy air conditioning in your home – that’s our job. However, it might be a good idea to know what’s going on “under the hood” so you can understand the importance of regular maintenance for your air conditioner.

Over 80 Percent of All Air Conditioner Repairs Are Related to Electrical Issues

HVAC systems contain many complex electrical parts. Capacitors, contactors, circuit boards, electric motors and much more. There’s also extensive electrical wiring throughout the system. All these parts work in concert to provide you with cool comfort in your home. One of the main reasons for scheduling regular maintenance is to ensure all these electrical components are functioning properly. Electrical issues with parts or wiring can cause serious damage to your air conditioner or even create a fire hazard. We have seen something as simple as an exposed wire, chewed by mice, take down an entire AC system. Given that your major parts of your air conditioning system are installed outside your home subject to extreme weather conditions, there are many opportunities for parts, electrical and otherwise, to fail. Let’s take, for example, a small electrical part known as a capacitor.

What Is the Importance of a Capacitor in My Air Conditioner?

If you hold a capacitor in your hand, it looks like a fairly insignificant piece of your overall HVAC system. However, capacitors regulate the “start-up” and “run” energy for the electric motors and if one burns out, you’ve got a problem. Capacitors come in all shapes and sizes. In air conditioners, capacitors are cylindrical, about the size of a Dixie cup and are used mainly to store and release electric charges. Capacitors regulate the motors in the compressor, blower and fan. If a capacitor fails, then the motor will soon stop working. If you are experiencing problems with your air conditioner and you notice a clicking noise or loud hum, it’s not a good sign and you should call for service immediately.

What Causes Electrical Parts to Fail?

The electrical systems in your air conditioner are built to last, however, summer in Phoenix is an extreme environment. Electrical thunderstorms, lightening, wind driven rain, floods, power failures and resulting power surges (when the power grid goes back on) can wreak havoc on electrical parts. Air conditioners can operate full tilt for six months or more in Arizona year in, year out. All that heavy use and vibration takes a toll. Normal wear and tear will eventually take down even the most reliable electrical parts. The point is, you never know when one of these parts will fail. If your air conditioner has been in operation for years, it is a good idea to schedule regular maintenance checkups in spring and in fall to ensure the continued safe operation of your HVAC system.

Remember, Electrical Issues Should Be Handled by Trained Professionals

Occasionally, we get a call from a customer who has been inspired by a YouTube video to save money on air conditioning repairs. We’re all for saving a few bucks and we’re happy to show you how to replace your air filters, however – please leave the complicated electrical repairs to the pro’s. You can do damage to your air conditioner and seriously hurt yourself with an electrical shock if you get in over your head. If you’re having electrical issues, please give us a call.