In the Central and Northern Sacramento Valley, we rely upon our air conditioning systems to get us through about April until October without any hiccups. You might have watched some videos and read some articles online to try to figure out the problem you are experiencing with your air conditioning system. The videos may refer to a failed capacitor and show you how to replace it. They will usually say that you can try replacing the capacitor as a first step in trying to solve your cooling issue. Please read the entire article before you attempt this repair.
Symptoms of Air Conditioning Problems
Air conditioning system capacitors are crucial for cool air delivery in your system. When they go out or are nearing failure, there are some warning signs.
- Cooling cycle slow to start
- Cooling cycle fails to begin
- No cold air
- Random shutdowns
- Burning smells or smoke
- Higher electricity bills
- Humming noise
What can be very confusing for a homeowner is that some of these issues can be caused by other factors. For example, if the unit will not cycle on at all, you could have a faulty motor or wires that are not making a good connection. There is a troubleshooting sequence that technicians must go through, using their electrical measurement devices, to figure out which cause is creating these symptoms.
Capacitors are parts we commonly replace on central air conditioning units. They will last in normal circumstances for several years to a decade or more. If you have had your central air unit for over a decade, the capacitor likely just reached its normal end of service. Other causes of capacitor failure include a short circuit that will also have to be found and fixed, an overheated capacitor due to an extreme heat event, a power surge, or even a lightning strike. Although lightning strikes are rare here, we see quite a number of extreme heat events.
We will ensure that the rest of your system is functioning at proper benchmarks after we replace any failed parts. We do this to give you peace of mind that your central air unit will continue to keep your home comfortable.
What Is a Capacitor?
You can identify a capacitor in your central air conditioning unit quite easily. It is a fairly large cylinder that is very shiny. A capacitor acts similarly to a battery. It stores energy for use later on.
As you know, air conditioning units use quite a bit of electricity. When a unit first powers up, it needs a good amount of electricity to get the motors running at the outset of a new cooling cycle. The amount needed is more than Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) can supply through your wall outlet. That is where the capacitors kick in. They supply the needed juice, along with more from your outlet, that gets the motors running and the unit cycling on. Then, the capacitors keep supplying more electrical current as the unit goes through the cooling cycle, just at a reduced rate.
There is not necessarily just one capacitor in your central air conditioning unit. You may have two capacitors. The start capacitor supplies that first big hit of electricity to get the motor started up for a new cooling cycle. The run capacitor takes over after the cooling cycle has commenced to supply enough electricity to keep the unit working through the cooling cycle. Often, if you have two capacitors, it is easier and recommended to simply replace the two capacitors with one dual capacitor that will serve in place of the run and start capacitors. It will make future repairs on the system more seamless.
Why Not Wait to Fix It
If your air conditioning unit is still blowing some cold air or just having random issues, you might be tempted to wait to get it fixed to defray the repair cost. Whether the failing part is a capacitor or something else, this is always a mistake. If any part of your air conditioning system is in need of repair, it will place more stress on other parts of the system.
In the case of a failing capacitor, this can mean that your air conditioning system is starved for electricity to run at full efficiency. This can lead to other parts of your air conditioning system straining and failing. The capacitor is cheap to replace. Other parts of your air conditioning system that can also fail are not all cheap to replace. Failed condensers can be very expensive to replace.
By the way, the same is true of failure to keep your air conditioning unit up on its regular maintenance schedule. Parts that are not maintained on a regular schedule can strain the system, leading to premature failure.
Why We Advise You to Leave the Capacitor Repair to Us
These capacitors store incredible amounts of energy. As you know, 120-volt alternating current is nothing to play around with. We know how to discharge the capacitor before we remove it from your system. If you handle a capacitor without discharging it, you risk getting a very bad electrical shock. If you are reading this article and need an answer to this question, your electrical skill level is not such that you should risk your safety in trying to save a small amount of money.
Also, there is no use in replacing a part that has not failed and that does not show signs of failing. We are going to use our measurement devices to ensure that the capacitor is truly failing before we waste your money on a replacement part. Capacitors tend to last several years to decades. Most homeowners do not have the skills to measure alternating current amperage. We will thoroughly test all parts of your electrical system, using our years of electrical training and experience on all types of air conditioning units, to troubleshoot the exact cause of the problem. We want to get your system up and fully running quickly and keep you, our customer, safe.
Gallagher's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning Serving Sacramento and the Surrounding Area
At Gallagher's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning, we have offices in Sacramento, Olivehurst, and Los Molinos. We have been serving the heating, cooling, and plumbing needs of the Northern Valley and Greater Sacramento areas for over 30 years. We provide heating and air conditioning installations, maintenance, and repair. Our NATE-certified technicians service and repair all brands of heating and cooling equipment. We are also your local plumbing provider, so we are fully qualified to replace your hot water heater and install water purification systems as well. If you are in need of indoor air quality solutions or duct cleaning, we can even help with that.
Our company has a BBB A+ rating due to our top-notch services. We provide financing on installations for customers with approved credit, and we serve our community by supporting the local food banks year-round.
Call or email us through our website today to set up an appointment with Gallagher's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning. We will get everything back up and running smoothly.