Can A Blown Capacitor Lead To An Air Conditioner Breakdown?

Can A Blown Capacitor Lead to an Air Conditioner Breakdown

Air conditioners need a lot of power in order to work as intended. Their need for power is great enough that additional components have to be used to keep them going. Those components in question are known as capacitors.

The capacitors will present no problems most of the time. However, they are susceptible to blowing out. If that happens, your air conditioning unit will have some serious problems.

Your air conditioner cannot function properly if the capacitor is blown and it won’t cool the house. Air capacitors last for up to 20 years, but power surges, debris, and the excessive heat can break them. You cannot repair a blown capacitor and you will need to replace it to fix the air conditioner.  

Blown out capacitors can be bad news for your air conditioner and your home. Learn more about how to detect and address busted capacitors by continuing with this article.

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What Is an Air Conditioner Capacitor and What Does It Do?

To get things started, let’s talk about what an air conditioner capacitor is and what it does. An air conditioner capacitor looks like a small cylinder and it handles three important jobs. A typical capacitor is tasked with collecting electricity, storing electricity, and supplying electricity.

So, why does the capacitor need to do those things? It’s because an air conditioner cannot function by just relying on the electricity flowing through an outlet. Air conditioners are voracious consumers of electricity and they often need a boost at different points to continue working.

When you turn on your air conditioner, the components known as the start capacitors get to work. The start capacitors provide a boost to the air conditioner’s motors. The boost allows the motors to quickly initiate the cooling cycle.

The motors are not the only parts of the air conditioner that receive a boost. The capacitors can also assist the compressor inside your air conditioner.

Once the air conditioner is running, the start capacitors will shut down and give way to the run capacitors. As you might have already guessed, the run capacitors are tasked with keeping your air conditioner going. They can also provide some additional electricity to the air conditioner and help out the motors a bit.

Capacitors are essential to the proper operation of an air conditioning unit. If they blow out, your unit may simply stop working.

Why Do Air Conditioner Capacitors Blow Out?

Now that we have a better understanding of what the capacitors do, let’s discuss why they encounter problems. Thankfully, you can do something about most of the potential causes of capacitor blowouts. Check out the information included in this section to learn how to better protect your air conditioner capacitors.

The Capacitor Is Exposed to High Levels of Heat

Capacitors have working limitations. Push them over their limit and they may blow out and be rendered useless. One specific limitation you must be mindful of whenever you’re using an air conditioner and its capacitors is the temperature.

For the most part, air conditioner capacitors are not supposed to operate at over 150 degrees Fahrenheit. They start to run into problems when they exceed that temperature threshold. The capacitors in your air conditioners may overheat and eventually blow out if you keep them running that hot.

The good news is that you can do something to keep the capacitors from overheating. If it’s really warm outside, try to limit how much you use your air conditioner.

We understand that limiting the usage of your air conditioner when it’s unusually hot is a tough ask. It’s necessary though because you could be placing too great of a burden on the capacitors. At the very least, allow the air conditioner to rest for a bit every few hours to avoid overheating.

The Capacitor Was Struck by Debris

Debris can also pose a threat to the capacitors in your air conditioners. Random bits of debris flying through the air could hit one of the capacitors and damage it. If the damage is severe enough, the capacitor may stop working.

Fortunately, this is another cause of capacitor blow out you can protect against. Look for a spot clear from any trees or debris and install the air conditioner there. Alternatively, you can place your air conditioning unit inside one of those cages to protect it.

There Are Short Circuits inside the Air Conditioning Unit

The capacitor is not the only component of the air conditioner you have to watch out for. If the other components of your air conditioner are damaged and produce a short circuit, the capacitor could sustain damage too.

This is another reason why you must be careful when you pick out a spot for the air conditioner. Once again, keeping the unit inside a protective cage is not a bad idea.

The Capacitor Is Damaged by a Power Surge

Power surges can occur for numerous reasons. They can occur when you turn on an appliance that consumes a lot of electricity. Power surges can also be byproducts of faulty wiring inside your home.

Those causes of power surges are relatively easy to guard against. You can control when you use your appliances after all. You can also refrain from using the air conditioner until the wiring in your home is fixed. The problem here is that lightning strikes can also cause power surges. We all know how unpredictable lightning strikes can be.

Err on the side of caution by shutting off your air conditioner whenever a thunderstorm passes by. That should keep both the unit and the capacitors protected from damage.

The Capacitor Succumbs to Old Age

One more thing that can cause a capacitor to blow out is wear and tear. Capacitors are built to last, but they won’t stay in service forever.

The capacitors will blow out at some point. When that happens, you may be better off purchasing a new unit. Replacing the blown-out capacitor but sticking to the same unit could just be delaying the inevitable.

How Can You Tell if a Capacitor Has Blown Out?

The signs of an air conditioner capacitor blowing out are easy to detect. Learn what those signs are by checking out the information in this section.

Smoke Coming from Your Air Conditioner

The sight of smoke is never welcome when it’s coming from an appliance. When a capacitor is nearing a blowout, it may start to emit smoke. Stop using the air conditioner as soon as you see the smoke.

The Smell of Something Burning in the Air

Usually, the smoke coming from your air conditioner capacitor will be accompanied by a not so pleasant odor. The odor in question is the distinctive smell of something burning. The burning smell is coming from the chemicals previously contained within the blown-out capacitor.

Chemicals Leaking from Your Air Conditioner

Speaking of those chemicals, they may also start to leak out as the capacitor is further damaged. You can easily mistake those leaking chemicals for water though.

To find out exactly what is leaking from your air conditioner, try to get a small of the falling liquid. If it smells off, that’s probably because it’s the chemical mixture coming from the blown-out capacitor.

The Air Conditioner Struggling or Failing to Start

Most air conditioners take a minute or two to really get going. However, if it’s taking your unit longer than that to provide cooling, you may have a capacitor problem. The air conditioner may still be able to start if the capacitor is just on the verge of blowing out. Once the capacitor gives way though, the unit will no longer be able to run.

Unusual Sounds Coming from the Air Conditioner

Lastly, you can tell if the capacitors in your air conditioner are about to blow out by listening to the unit. Clicking noises indicate that the capacitor is close to blowing out. If you’re hearing humming sounds, that likely means that the capacitor is already busted.

What Should You Do if a Capacitor in Your Air Conditioner Blows Out?

In order to prevent a capacitor blow out, you have to be more careful when using your air conditioner. Like we said earlier, keeping the air conditioner inside a protective cage will help prolong the capacitor lifespan. Refraining from using the air conditioner when it’s really hot or there’s a thunderstorm in your area is also smart.

But what should you do if the capacitor has already blown out? There’s no real way to fix a blown-out capacitor. All you can do at that point is to replace the blown-out capacitor.

Call the professionals to replace the capacitor for you. The inner workings of an air conditioner are quite complex so leave tinkering inside that machine to the professionals.

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Related Questions

How Long Do Air Conditioner Capacitors Last?

20 years is the expected life span for an average air conditioner capacitor. Obviously, though, they can blow out way earlier if you don’t make an effort to protect them better.

How Much Should You Expect to Pay for Capacitor Replacement?

Compared to replacing something like the air conditioner’s compressor, getting a new capacitor installed inside the unit is more affordable. On the low end, capacitor replacement could cost you a bit over $100 and that includes labor. Note that capacitor replacement should cost no higher than $500.

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