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Why You Should Not Overload Your HVAC System: The Technical Side

February 12, 2018

Your compressor is the heart of your HVAC system and is integral to the heating and cooling of your home. It emits heat as a normal part of operation so pumping coolant through the system is important. If the unit gets too hot, the system may shut down.

What is Compressor Overload?

AC compressor thermal overload typically happens on the hottest (or coldest) days of the year, when your system is working overtime and is a common cause of a malfunction. It is a serious problem, responsible for 49 percent of component failures, and also one of the most expensive if it results in compressor failure. It could result in the need for complete system replacement, depending on the age of your system.

What Causes Compressor Burn Out?

Homeowner neglect and shoddy installation are the primary causes of compressor burnout, along with maintenance issues including…

Dirty condenser oils.

A dirty air filter.

Refrigerant leaks.

Overcharged/Undercharged refrigeration system.

Moisture in refrigeration system (acid burnout).

Lack of airflow from poor system location (surrounded by weeds, bushes, covered by deck).

Additional heat sources located near the condenser (dryer vent, hot water pipes).

Lack of airflow from debris (grass clippings, trash stuck to external system components).

Loose connections and corroded wires, or insufficient electrical supply into home, causing low voltage/high amperage problems.

Other component failures (fan motor, capacitor, reversing valve, refrigerant lines, thermal expansion valve, etc.).

How Can You Prevent Compressor Overloads from Causing Damage?

Do not neglect homeowner maintenance.

At a minimum, change your air filter every three months. Maintain 18-26 inches of clearance around all sides and three to four feet above by cleaning debris from the external system.

Enlist a trusted HVAC Professional.

In order to extend the life of your compressor, you will need proper installation from a knowledgeable pro, as well as routine seasonal professional maintenance including verification of proper refrigerant levels, lubrication and connections, coil cleaning, and confirmation of operation according to manufacturer’s specs for system longevity.

Consider additional protection.

You can safeguard your HVAC system with a compressor overload protector. This special sensor, located near the condenser, monitors temperatures, shutting down the compressor temporarily to prevent it from overheating. You can prevent AC compressor thermal overload and alert you to problems before they become costly by turning off your system to allow the compressor to cool.

Before simply replacing components when your compressor overheats, look into the situation to find out why. Just replacing components could lead to a repeat of the situation. Seek help now, before it’s too late if your system has experienced an increased frequency of overheating. Contact ESCO Heating, AC, Plumbing & Electric for a system check today.