Central air conditioning systems are one of the best ways to keep a whole house cool without breaking the bank with high utility costs. Unfortunately, they're also reasonably complex systems that rely on numerous components to operate reliably and efficiently. Failures can come from multiple sources, including worn mechanical, electronic issues, and electrical faults.
If your AC system isn't working as it should, you might have a faulty wiring problem. These issues are often challenging to diagnose if you don't know what you're looking for, so keep reading to learn about three ways that an electrical failure might leave you sweating this summer.
1. Capacitor Failures
Capacitors are some of the simplest electronic components you can find in a circuit. These devices store energy by using electric fields, which is a trait that makes them incredibly useful for numerous purposes. Among their many uses, capacitors can help smooth power delivery and "jump-start" motors by collecting a high initial charge.
Your air conditioning system has two large capacitors that it uses for both purposes. The run capacitor smooths power delivery to the compressor, while the start capacitor provides the jolt to get it going. A faulty capacitor can stop your AC system from running, cause it to shut down prematurely, or even trip your circuit breaker.
2. Contactor Problems
While most people have heard of capacitors, you might be less familiar with contactors. Contactors perform a similar function to relays — they allow a relatively low-voltage signal to control power to a high-voltage device, such as your AC compressor. A faulty contactor will usually produce severe symptoms, such as preventing your AC from turning on or allowing the compressor to run continuously.
Since contactors are switches, they can wear out over time. Poor installation or loose wires can also lead to failures, often resulting from arcing at the wire mount points. In these cases, you might notice burnt or melted portions of the contactor surface. Unless you see obvious signs of failure, you'll usually want a professional to check your contactor for problems before replacing it.
3. Wire Shorts
Your outdoor condenser unit must endure sweltering summers, pouring rain, and frigid winter temperatures. Although manufacturers design these units to stand up to the elements, issues can still develop with the sometimes fragile wiring. Temperature changes or even UV radiation can weaken insulation on wires, causing them to become brittle and potentially break when stressed.
Shorted wires can produce many symptoms, especially if the problem is a slightly loose connection that occasionally loses contact due to condenser vibrations. Fortunately, finding a shorted or broken wire is often the most challenging part of this repair. Once you locate the wire, repairing the issue is usually a simple matter of snipping off the damaged portion and reconnecting it.
For more information on HVAC repair, contact a professional near you.