What Happens When an Air Conditioner Capacitor Goes Bad?

The capacitor is one of the most important components of your HVAC unit. This piece stores and supplies energy to your air conditioner’s compressor and plays a major role in how well the cooling system functions. So, what happens when an air conditioner capacitor goes bad? 

This guide shares everything you need to know about faulty air conditioning capacitors and the common warning signs to look out for. If you suspect your unit has a broken capacitor, reach out to professionals like Maximum Comfort Heating & Air Conditioning, the leading air conditioner repair experts in Lakeside. They can inspect your system and restore your home’s comfort in no time.

What Is an Air Conditioner Capacitor?

Before we get into what happens when an air conditioner capacitor fails, it’s important to understand this HVAC component in more detail. The capacitor helps the entire system run smoothly by storing energy for the compressor to use. When the capacitor malfunctions, the compressor will fail to run, and you no longer have access to comfortable, cool air in your home. 

Think of the capacitor as a short-term battery that powers the unit’s main electrical systems. They store energy within an electrostatic field and release a signal to the unit’s blower motor, compressor motor, and outside fan to keep them running. You’ll typically find this part on an outdoor condenser unit near the compressor, though certain models will have the capacitor in a different location.  

Your air conditioner needs a capacitor to run effectively and provide you with cool air. A faulty capacitor will not be able to send electrical charges to the system’s motor machine components and will stop them from operating as they should. 

What Happens When an Air Conditioner Capacitor Goes Bad?

While dealing with a worn-out AC capacitor is never ideal, it’s usually easy to tell when yours needs replacing. Some warning signs that your capacitor isn’t functioning properly include the following:

  • The unit blows warm air: When your capacitor can’t kickstart your air conditioning compressor, you may experience warm air blowing through the vents. This is because the compressor is unable to complete the heat exchange to move warm air outside.
  • Your HVAC unit makes humming noises: An overworked capacitor will make noises that come from the outdoor condenser unit. Turn the unit off to test whether the sounds are from the system’s motor running or a faulty capacitor. Hearing the noise when the inside unit is off likely means the capacitor is the source of the problem.
  • The system doesn’t turn on: Severe damage to your capacitor could prevent your compressor from starting, which will keep your entire air conditioner from turning on. 
  • Your energy bills drastically increase: When the capacitor can’t provide energy to the compressor, the unit needs to work harder to supply cool air. The strain typically results in higher energy bills, despite no changes to your cooling habits.
  • The condenser unit emits strong odors: Look out for a burning smell coming from your condenser. It is a strong indicator that your capacitor is due for a replacement.

If you experience any of these issues, it’s best to call a licensed HVAC technician like Maximum Comfort Heating & Air Conditioning as soon as possible. Trained professionals will inspect your system and diagnose capacitor problems with ease, giving you a straightforward answer regarding your capacitor’s condition by conducting a simple test. These industry experts use a multimeter to gather voltage readings from several capacitor terminals, and a reading that comes back lower than normal would confirm a capacitor problem.

What Causes AC Capacitor Issues?

You know what happens when an air conditioner capacitor goes bad, but knowing why it breaks down is more important. The likely culprit is overheating within the system’s circuits. The capacitor can’t function as a pseudo-battery when all of the unit’s electrical systems tend to overheat. 

Some of the common causes of overheating include the following:

  • A buildup of dirt and dust particles on certain internal components. This impacts the system’s ventilation.
  • Power surges and scorching outdoor temperatures. This damages the capacitor. 
  • Failing to perform basic maintenance on your air conditioner. A poorly maintained capacitor is more likely to malfunction due to overheating circuits.

It’s also possible that your capacitor is past its prime. Aging systems and general wear and tear can cause performance problems and require an HVAC technician to step in.

How Do Experts Repair a Broken Air Conditioner Capacitor?

Air conditioning manufacturers have come a long way since the invention of the first units, but capacitors still don’t last forever. These components can last up to 20 years with regular air conditioning maintenance, though. So, be sure to schedule regular tune-up appointments to keep all the components in your unit, including the capacitor, in excellent condition. 

Despite what happens when an air conditioner capacitor goes bad, the repair process is quite simple. A licensed HVAC contractor like Maximum Comfort Heating & Air Conditioning will determine whether the problem lies with the capacitor and then quickly replace the part. They’ll then test it to make sure that the unit is fully functional or whether there is another issue. 

You shouldn’t have to replace the air conditioner with a faulty capacitor, but if your system frequently breaks down and is over ten years old, it may be worthwhile to install a new unit. However, never attempt to replace the capacitor yourself; it can leak oil and become dangerous if you don’t have the proper equipment or training. Rather, count on a professional to handle the issue safely.

Call For Professional HVAC Services Today!

Now that you know what happens when an air conditioner capacitor goes bad, you understand the urgency of the situation. Don’t wait to call an HVAC expert for help, whether you need repairs or brand-new AC installation. Licensed technicians like Maximum Comfort Heating & Air Conditioning can help solve any issues to get your HVAC performance back on track.

Maximum Comfort Heating & Air Conditioning offers fast, reliable service at affordable rates. See for yourself why we are the San Diego area’s top-rated HVAC contractor—call 619-949-2483 today!