Home AC Compressor Not Turning On: 4 Common Problems & Fixes

Your home AC compressor not turning on is like missing the beat in a well-choreographed dance. Let’s help you find the rhythm again.

Home AC Compressor Not Turning On
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Brief Overview of Home AC Compressor Not Turning On

Imagine a hot summer day, and your home AC compressor decides to take a break – not the best scenario, right? But why does this happen? It could be anything from electrical issues to low refrigerant levels, to even a tripped breaker. Let’s dig into the mystery surrounding this cooling maestro!


Diagnosing a Non-Functional AC Compressor

Just like a detective, we’ve got to start by collecting the clues. Is your house feeling like a sauna? Hearing strange noises from your AC unit? These could all be signs that your compressor is on strike.

Identifying Symptoms of a Faulty Compressor

When your home AC compressor is not turning on, it’s pretty noticeable – your home turns into a makeshift desert. Odd sounds like clattering or sputtering from the AC unit are other potential signs. It’s as if your AC is crying out for help!

Checking the Thermostat

The thermostat is like the remote control of your air conditioner. If it’s not properly set, your AC may not turn on, or it might not cool effectively.

Start by ensuring that the thermostat is set to ‘cool’ mode and that the desired temperature is lower than the current room temperature. A thermostat in ‘heat’ mode or with a higher temperature setting could be your AC’s Achilles heel.

Also, if your thermostat is outdated or its batteries are drained, it might fail to signal your AC to kick in. So, giving it a fresh pair of batteries or considering an upgrade to a programmable or smart thermostat can often fix the issue.

Inspecting the Circuit Breaker

Your AC compressor might just be a victim of a tripped circuit breaker. When the breaker trips, the power supply to your AC gets cut off, preventing the compressor and other parts from working.

You can check this by locating your electrical panel and looking for the breaker associated with your AC system. If it’s in the ‘off’ or ‘middle’ position, switch it back to ‘on’.

If the breaker trips again shortly after, though, don’t keep resetting it. This could indicate a more severe problem like a short circuit or an overloaded circuit and would require an electrician’s attention.

Checking for Blocked or Dirty Coils

The condenser coils in your AC play a crucial role in dissipating the heat collected from your home’s air. However, if they’re caked with dirt or obstructed by debris, they can’t do their job, making your compressor work overtime and potentially causing it to overheat or not turn on. These coils are usually located in the outdoor unit.

After shutting off the power, you can use a coil cleaner and a gentle brush or a garden hose to clean off the gunk. Regularly cleaning these coils not only helps your compressor function but also boosts your AC’s overall efficiency.

Inspecting the Capacitor and Contactor

The capacitor serves as a battery to kick-start the compressor, while the contactor controls the electric flow to the various AC components. If either of these fails, the compressor might not turn on.

These parts can be visually inspected for signs of wear and tear like bulging, burns, or pitting. However, their performance is often evaluated using a multimeter to check if they’re within the manufacturer’s specified range.

Keep in mind, though, tinkering with electrical components carries risks, and it’s often best left to professionals.


Check out these other related articles…

How to Quiet a Noisy Car AC Compressor: 3 Proven Solutions

AC Compressor Noise at Idle: How to Diagnose & Fix

Noisy AC Compressor: 3 Proven DIY Fixes

Car AC Compressor Rattling Noise: 4 Proven Solutions

Car AC Compressor Making Whining Noise: 2 Proven DIY Fixes

Car AC Compressor Knocking Noise: 3 Guaranteed Solutions

Why Is My Car AC Compressor Making Noise? [Detailed Answer]


Common Problems and Their Solutions

Identified the problem? Great! Now let’s don our repair hats and find a solution.

Refrigerant Issues

The refrigerant in your AC is like the blood in the veins of your cooling system. Without it, your AC is running on empty!

Low Refrigerant Levels

Refrigerant is the lifeblood of your AC system that absorbs and removes heat from your home. If its levels are low, the compressor may run longer and harder, potentially leading to overheating and failure.

Low refrigerant levels often stem from undercharging during installation or leaks in the system. It’s not something that homeowners can usually fix themselves, as handling refrigerants requires special tools and certification. A professional HVAC technician can check refrigerant levels, identify leaks, and recharge the system if necessary.

Refrigerant Leak

A refrigerant leak is a more severe issue that not only affects the compressor but can also harm the environment, as many refrigerants are potent greenhouse gases.

Signs of a leak include ice formation on the refrigerant lines or the indoor unit, hissing or bubbling noises, and decreased cooling efficiency. Since refrigerant is a closed-loop system, under normal conditions, it doesn’t run out.

So, if your AC is low on refrigerant, it’s likely due to a leak. A licensed HVAC technician can detect the leak, repair it, and safely recharge the refrigerant.

Electrical Problems

Electrical problems can range from faulty wiring and corroded connections to failed capacitors and a malfunctioning motor. These issues can prevent electricity from reaching the compressor, keeping it from turning on.

Often, these problems are detected through a process of elimination when other potential issues like thermostat settings and circuit breakers have been checked.

Since dealing with electrical components can be dangerous, it’s advisable to hire a professional to troubleshoot and fix electrical problems with your AC.

Overheating Compressor

An overheating compressor usually shuts down to prevent damage, much like how your body might faint to protect you from severe heatstroke. Overheating can be caused by various factors, including dirty condenser coils, a malfunctioning fan, or low refrigerant levels, which cause the compressor to work harder and heat up.

Giving your AC a break can help the compressor cool down. However, recurrent overheating points to an underlying problem that needs addressing. Regular maintenance and promptly addressing issues can help prevent your compressor from overheating.


When to Call a Professional

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we need to call in the cavalry. Complex AC issues can be like a Rubik’s cube – hard to solve without the right knowledge. That’s when it’s time to call in a professional. But remember, always choose someone with good reviews and fair prices. Your AC deserves the best!

Leave a Comment