Here’s the thing—air conditioners are complex! They’re electronic devices involving wires, switches, capacitors, and many other components. When something goes amiss, there is often an electrical reason behind it. This isn’t always the case, of course, as air conditioners are susceptible to natural wear and tear. But a good rule of thumb if your well-maintained AC is showing troubling symptoms is to call a pro to check out the electrical connections.
We recommend calling pros versus trying to resolve the problem on your own for safety reasons—only a licensed and experienced professional should ever deal with all the wiring that’s involved.
We can tell you though, that if it is an electrical problem, it could very well have something to do with a failing or broken down capacitor. Read on to learn more!
What Is a Capacitor?
This is an electrical part of your AC that works as a battery for the motors. Capacitors function by storing voltage, which is then sent to the motors. There are two of these devices—one is tasked with starting the motor (called the start capacitor) and one is tasked with keeping the motor running (called the run capacitor).
Capacitors do not last as long as the entire air conditioner. Well-serviced cooling systems can be expected to last 10–15 years, whereas a temporary capacitor might only last a third or half that time.
How to Tell If You Have a Bad Capacitor
If your cooling system is blowing out air that isn’t actually cool, is short-cycling (rapidly turning on and off), or making odd noises, it can be for many different reasons.
You might be dealing with a clogged air filter, which you can and should change on your own; or you may have a refrigerant leak, which you’ll need a professional to manage. If these problems have been ruled out, and you discover any of the following common symptoms, you could be looking at a bad capacitor.
- Your air conditioner’s vents are blowing out lukewarm air.
- The air conditioner takes a while to start when you signal on the thermostat for it to turn on.
- There is a humming noise coming from the system.
- The AC shuts off on its own.
- The AC won’t turn on at all.
- You hear a clicking noise coming from the cabinet.
Do any of these sound familiar?
“Can I Replace a Capacitor Myself?”
There are always going to be videos you can look up online that instruct you how to resolve home service problems. Many of these videos are super helpful, and a video on how to change a capacitor might be one of them. But the truth is, there is a big risk here.
First, as we alluded to above, dealing with electrical components can be dangerous. Secondly, you might end up doing more harm than good to your air conditioner. Unless you have specific experience dealing with motors and electrical components, we don’t recommend trying to replace a capacitor on your own.