Since their first introduction to the commercial market, air conditioners have slowly paved their way to the top of the must-have appliances list. Nowadays, air conditioners are an indispensable part of most homes and offices, especially in regions with a hot and humid climate.
The main reason for this is that aircon units provide a quick and efficient solution against the sweltering summer heat.
Just like any other appliances, air conditioners require proper care. However, this is not always taken into consideration by homeowners and this can lead to malfunctions and even more serious problems. Even if your aircon unit is not damaged, it might not be working efficiently, without your knowing.
To keep the appliance in good condition, it’s important to do regular maintenance check-ups. Along with that, having some basic knowledge on how air conditioners work is essential for troubleshooting any smaller or bigger issues that may occur before your aircon technicians come to aid.
The air compressor is one of the key parts of every aircon unit and as such, it’s a good idea to know how it functions. If you have to compare it to one of the human organs, it’s safe to say that the air compressor is the heart of the air conditioning system.
Because of that, air compressors are some of the most frequent causes of aircon breakdowns. But that shouldn’t bother you at all. With the following basics, you’ll be able to fully understand how your aircon’s air compressor works and eventually, improve your aircon’s performance.
What’s an Aircon Compressor?
Regardless of the type, every aircon unit has a compressor. As previously mentioned, it plays a major role in the air conditioner’s mechanics. What it basically does is compressing the refrigerant gas into the machine.
Then, it’s heated and transferred to the condenser coil where the cooling process begins. There are various types of aircon compressors, each with its advantages and disadvantages. However, all of them serve the same purpose.
What are the Types of Aircon Compressors?
Here is some information about the different types of aircon compressors.
Reciprocating Aircon Compressor
Perhaps, this is the most popular type of aircon compressor. It employs a piston that creates a vacuum effect by compressing the air in each cylinder.
The refrigerant is sucked up by the vacuum and moved up into the condenser coil. This is a very efficient way of transferring the refrigerant gas and a lot of air conditioning systems have up to eight cylinders within their compressors.
Scroll Aircon Compressor
A more recent aircon compressor, the scroll aircon compressor consists of two main parts – a fixed coil, also known as “the scroll”, and a coil that rotates around it. The rotating coil pushes the refrigerant gas towards the center where it’s eventually compressed.
Because they incorporate only one moving part, they are considered to be extremely efficient and more reliable. They are quickly and surely becoming the preferable choice over reciprocating compressor units.
Screw Aircon Compressor
Even though screw aircon compressors are very reliable and efficient, they’re most commonly used in large buildings with higher needs of air cooling. The two big helical rotors used to move the air from one end to another compress space while the refrigerant moves through the compressor.
Rotary Aircon Compressor
If you can’t bear noise or just want to create a non-distracting atmosphere in your home or office, getting an air conditioner with a rotary compressor would do a perfect job.
These compressors are usually small and very quiet compared to the other conventional aircon compressors. The bladed shaft gradually pushes the refrigerant gas through the compressor cylinder while compressing it in the process.
Centrifugal Aircon Compressor
Speaking of big and small aircon units, centrifugal compressors are definitely used in most of the biggest air conditioning systems. The centrifugal force employed in this type of compressor pulls in the refrigerant and spins it rapidly, thus compressing it.
Helpful read: Guide to Common Aircon System Problems
What Does An Aircon Compressor do?
Because refrigerant gas is essential for cooling, the aircon compressor’s main purpose is to transfer it safely to the condenser coil. To do this, there must be a proper heat transfer. In other words, the air has to rise above the pre-adjusted room temperature.
It is then sucked up into the condenser coil where it’s absorbed. The cool air that’s left eventually cools the room. If the aircon is set to heating mode, the compressor will do the exact opposite, leaving the warm air for the air conditioner to blow inside the room.
After the warm air is absorbed, the compressor turns it into liquid. Then, it passes through an expansion valve to reduce the liquid’s temperature. This is one of the steps that is a common cause for aircon compressor malfunctions.
Typically, the warm air becomes cold and in a low pressure, by the time it leaves the evaporator. If the liquid isn’t properly compressed, the conditioner is going to give out warm air no matter the preset mode. This might be one of the reasons your aircon is not blowing out cold air.
You may ask yourself why it’s so important to compress the refrigerant gas into a liquid. Well, since warm air is lighter than cold air, it rises above which makes it easy to absorb into the aircon duct. When it’s compressed, its molecules become more packed. This allows for better heat absorption, which ultimately gives you the cold air that blows into the room.
Some Common Signs of Aircon Compressor Failure
The Aircon’s Blowing Hot Air
This is probably one of the most common signs which may be quite frustrating to experience, especially if you’re looking for a way to run away from the summer heat.
Usually, the reason for the hot air coming out of your aircon is that the compressor is unable to pump the refrigerant through the system. The lack of efficiency may be caused by a refrigerant leak. As the amount is reduced, the compressor has to work harder which can gradually lead to a complete system failure.
The Aircon Compressor Doesn’t Turn On
If you’ve set your aircon unit to a cool mode but it’s actually hot inside, you should call an aircon technician immediately because your compressor may have already failed. It might be due to dirt accumulating over time.
And since such cases often require aircon compressor replacements, you may consider buying a new air conditioner.
A new compressor can be quite expensive and if your air conditioning system is relatively old, replacing your entire unit may be a much better idea.
Too Much Noise
After some time of problem-free exploitation, you may notice that your air conditioner has started working noisier than before.
This doesn’t necessarily have to be something serious, but leaving some dislodged components inside the condenser unit can eventually lead to compressor failure.
A skilled technician can easily fix the issue by lubricating and tightening the sources of the noise.
Strange Tripping and Vibrations
If you’re wondering why your outer condensing unit keeps losing power or starts shaking every time you turn it on, it may be because your aircon compressor is overheating or has trouble turning on.
Usually, these symptoms foreshadow an impending breakdown and it’s very important to call an aircon professional to inspect your compressor immediately. What’s more, the circuit breaker protects you from fire hazards and you shouldn’t try resetting it and turning the aircon back on under any circumstances.
To conclude, the compressor plays an essential role in the proper function of every aircon unit. When it breaks, it can compromise the entire system. Even worse – ignoring the symptoms of aircon compressor failure can hurt your pocket.
Therefore, you should always make sure it’s working properly. Regular aircon servicing is a must and hiring an experienced professional to do regular check-ups will save you from a lot of trouble.