Uh oh! Something’s wrong with your AC, and now, you’re wondering why the AC compressor is not working but the fan is running. While it may take some detective work, you should be able to identify the issue—if not, you can always give your local HVAC technician a call.
To help bring you one step closer to solving the problem, we’ll take a look at what your compressor does for your heating and air conditioning system. Then, we’ll explore just 6 reasons why your AC compressor may not be working but your fan is still running.
What Does Your AC Compressor Do?
If your AC compressor isn’t working, then your air conditioning system is going to have some trouble. Your compressor plays a pivotal role in the process of cooling your home, as it is responsible for “compressing” the refrigerant in your AC system and turning it into a high-pressure gas.
The high pressure is what then pushes the refrigerant through the refrigerant lines to the condenser coils, which allow for the heat to be released from refrigerant and, therefore, the heat to be eliminated from your home. Throughout the day, this cycle is repeated, making it possible for your home to remain at your ideal temperature. (Pro tip: Learn more about your compressor by checking out this article by Southwest Tech.)
When your compressor fails to function properly, however, your air conditioning system is unable to complete this important step in the process of keeping your home cool. A great way to ensure that your compressor continues working as it should is through regular air conditioner maintenance. With that said, if your compressor already isn’t working like it should, it’s time to troubleshoot.
Troubleshooting Your AC Compressor
Now that you’ve identified that your compressor isn’t working, you’ll need to do some troubleshooting to determine why it’s not working. In the following, we’ll outline 6 potential issues to consider.
Potential Issue 1. There’s a problem with the thermostat.
Whenever there’s an issue with your air conditioning system, the first thing you’ll want to look at is your thermostat. Double-check your thermostat settings to make sure that they are correct. In some cases, a change in the settings can lead to your compressor failing to run.
Another potential issue to consider is that your thermostat is faulty. In other words, your thermostat isn’t adequately communicating to your system that your compressor should be running. If that is the case, you may need to replace your thermostat, which can easily be done by an HVAC technician.
Pro tip: If you plan to upgrade your thermostat, consider installing a smart thermostat. Not only is a smart thermostat easier to operate than a programmable thermostat, but it can also help to reduce energy costs.
Potential Issue 2. It’s time to check your condenser coils & air filters.
In addition to checking your thermostat, you may also want to check the cleanliness of your coils and air filters. When you don’t clean your condenser coils or replace your air filters regularly, you increase your compressor’s chances of overheating, which causes your compressor to automatically shut off.
One way to address, or even prevent, this issue is by performing some HVAC maintenance. First, you’ll want to clean your condenser coils by removing the outer casing of your outdoor condenser unit and then rinsing your condenser coils with water. (Pro tip: Be sure to clean around the unit as well.) Next, you’ll want to replace the air filters throughout your home.
After doing so, give your system a chance to cool down, and once it’s had the chance to reset, try running your system to see if your compressor will turn on. In addition, you can check out our blog post, How to Clean an HVAC System, for more information on how to deep clean your system.
Potential Issue 3. There’s a power connection issue.
Once you’ve checked your thermostat, cleaned your condenser coils, and replaced your air filters, it’s time to consider the next possible issue. Another reason your compressor may not be running could be because your AC unit is not receiving power. Your fan, however, may still be running because it is receiving power from inside your home.
Whenever assessing an electrical issue, we recommend proceeding with caution. The easiest (and safest) thing you can do is check your circuit breaker. If there is a trip or a blown fuse, this could be your issue. On the other hand, if the electrical issue appears to be more significant, you may want to call your HVAC technician to have your equipment serviced.
Potential Issue 4. Something’s wrong with your capacitor.
If it’s not an electrical issue, there’s still a chance that your compressor is having issues receiving power. Your capacitor is also responsible for providing your compressor with power. If there is an issue with the capacitor relaying power to the compressor, your compressor won’t turn on.
The easiest solution for identifying and resolving an issue with your capacitor is by calling your HVAC technician. Your HVAC technician will use a multimeter to test your capacitor, and if your capacitor is the root of the problem, your technician will be more than happy to service your system and install a new capacitor for you. That way, your compressor will start running like normal, and your home will feel comfortable once again.
Pro tip: It’s highly likely that a damaged capacitor will lead to additional damage to your HVAC system, such as a dead compressor. If you suspect your capacitor is the issue, continue reading.
Potential Issue 5. You have a dead compressor.
At this point, you’ve tried everything, from taking a look at your thermostat to checking your capacitor. If that be the case, you may have a dead compressor. In fact, if a faulty compressor was the main issue, you may find yourself with a damaged compressor as well. Another potential cause for a dead compressor is an overheated unit.
Once you have identified that you have a dead compressor, you only have two options: Replace only the compressor or replace the entire unit altogether (the safer bet). Like your capacitor, you’ll ideally want to have your local HVAC technician lend a hand in replacing the damaged part.
Potential Issue 6. Your AC system is getting old.
Last but not least, it’s possible that you’re experiencing compressor issues because your system is getting old. As your system ages, the components within your system begin to deteriorate. This could be why your fan is still running, but your AC compressor has finally decided to give out.
If your system is 10 to 15 years old, or older, your AC system is reaching its end of life. At a certain point, it makes more sense to replace your system than to continue replacing parts here and there.
With a new AC system, you’ll no longer have to deal with the headache of having various internal components give out—as an added bonus, you might save energy with a new system as well. Check out our post, When You Need a New Air Conditioner, to learn more about when to upgrade.
Repairing or Replacing Your AC Compressor in Murrieta, CA
If you still find yourself wondering why your AC compressor is not working but your fan is running, you may need the help of a professional. An HVAC technician will not only have knowledge of how to diagnose your air conditioner’s issues, but he or she will have the necessary skills and tools to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
At Edge Heating & Air, we’ve been serving Murrieta, Temecula, Wildomar, and the surrounding areas for over 15+ years. We put our customers’ needs first. Whether you need AC repair or air conditioning installation, our team of HVAC technicians is ready to help!
Call us at (951) 304-9656 or schedule your service online today!