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What Does Your Air Conditioner Compressor Do?

Your air conditioner has a lot of different parts and components that must be able to work together in order to function. Most people don’t really know exactly what these components are, and in order to help you get a better understanding of how your system works, on this blog we’ll discuss one of the single most important pieces to the puzzle: your compressor.

Where Is It?

Your compressor is part of your outdoor air conditioning unit, which means it’s located inside the large box that houses your blower fan, cooling fins, condenser coil, and more. Therefore, when a technician says your compressor may be the problem, you’ll have to go outside of your home to check.

Compressors come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, so it’s hard to tell you exactly what yours looks like. However, because these components are so critical to your air conditioner as a whole, and they operate using a large amount of electricity, it’s strongly advised you let a professional handle the job for you if you need a compressor service.

What Is It?

When most people hear the term “compressor,” they think of an air compressor, which draws in air from the atmosphere around and crams it into a restricted space, such as a holding tank. This way you can actually fit far more air in the tank than the actual cubic volume it occupies. Your air conditioner compressor does essentially the same thing: takes a gas and squishes it into a much smaller space than the volume it occupies.

This gas is known as refrigerant, and the process of compressing it into a high-pressure gas also dramatically increases its temperature—as high as hundreds of degrees. Why you want to do this in an air conditioner, when you’re trying to cool your home? Simple: because extremely hot refrigerant can still be cooled by the air outside, even on tremendously hot days.

Think of how your car still manages to stay cool enough to operate smoothly, even when driving for hours on end on a scorching hot summer day. This is because the air outside, even though it’s warm, isn’t nearly as warm as the temperatures in your radiator and engine bay. Thus, when this atmospheric air comes in, it’s actually cool relatively speaking, and thus can still be used to absorb heat.

After this boiling-hot gaseous refrigerant comes out of your compressor (while still at high pressure), it’s fed through your condenser coil, where air from the atmosphere around it is pulled across the coil in order to absorb the heat from the refrigerant. By the time the refrigerant completes its journey through this coil, it’s still a high-pressure gas, but a significantly cooler one. This way when the refrigerant meets your expansion chamber, where it’s converted from a high-pressure gas to a low-pressure fluid, the expansion process rapidly cools the substance, allowing it to then absorb heat from inside your home, which creates the cool, refreshing air you depend on.

Is Something Wrong?

What are some signs that something is wrong with your compressor? It can be hard to tell, but there are a few key indicators that there may be an issue with this important device. The first one is a loud screeching noise coming from your outdoor unit. While this might also be indicative of a blower motor or fan belt issue, a faulty compressor can also create a painful grinding sound that will make you want to shut off your system immediately.

The second sign there may be an issue is if your system turns on and appears to be functioning properly, but your system isn’t making any cold air, or is in fact blowing warm air into your home. Unless the compressor can create the heat-absorbing pressure in your refrigerant lines, the expansion chamber that cools your refrigerant is completely useless. In this case, your refrigerant is more likely to absorb heat from outside and then carry it back in, resulting in an increase in interior temperature.

If you’re having trouble with your air conditioner, contact the skilled Palm Beach County air conditioning and heating team from Phoenix Air Conditioning, LLC today!
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