Air Conditioning & Heating, Serving Northwest Houston

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Air Conditioning & Heating, Serving Northwest Houston

What is an AC Compressor and Signs It’s Going Out

What is an AC Compressor and Signs It's Going Out
Rated #1 on

Air Conditioning & Heating, Serving Northwest Houston

In Houston, air conditioning is not just a convenience or a luxury, it’s a necessity. That is why when your AC unit is acting up, you don’t want to wait to get it repaired or replaced if need be. One of the critical components of an air conditioning unit is the air compressor. However, many homeowners have heard of an air compressor but don’t really know what it is or how it works. If these problems are caught in time, a simple ac repair job might do the trick. However, if left untreated, you might have to replace your ac unit. So we are going to explain what an ac compressor is and the signs the ac compressor is going out.  

What is an AC Compressor?

The compressor is often referred to as the “heart” of the air conditioning unit. It’s responsible for compressing the refrigerant gas from a low-pressure vapor into a high-pressure gas. This process allows the refrigerant to expel the heat absorbed from the inside of your home to the outside, thereby cooling your indoor space.

In simpler terms, the compressor plays a pivotal role in the cooling process, ensuring that the refrigerant circulates through the system effectively.

How Does the Compressor Actually Work?

The compressor’s primary function is to increase the pressure of the low-pressure gas refrigerant, turning it into a high-pressure gas. This process elevates the temperature of the refrigerant, making it hotter than the outdoor temperature. This temperature difference is crucial, as it allows heat to be expelled from the refrigerant to the outside environment.

Compressor Cycle Breakdown:

  • Intake: The compressor draws in the low-pressure and temperature gas refrigerant from the evaporator.
  • Compression: Using pistons or rotary blades (depending on the type of compressor), the compressor then compresses this gas. The molecules of the refrigerant are pushed closer together, increasing both the pressure and the temperature of the gas.
  • Exhaust: The now-hot, high-pressure gas is pushed out of the compressor and into the condenser coil, where it will release its heat to the outdoor environment.

The compressor can be thought of as a pump, similar to the heart in the human body. Just as the heart pumps blood throughout the body, the compressor pumps refrigerant throughout the AC system. And, like the heart, if the compressor fails, the entire system struggles to function.

Signs Your AC Compressor is Going Out:

Hard Starting: If your AC struggles to start up or intermittently shuts off, it may be a sign that the compressor is overworking or failing.

Warm Air: One of the most common symptoms of a malfunctioning compressor is when the AC blows warm air. The compressor might not be able to pump refrigerant effectively, causing the system to fail in removing heat.

Strange Noises: Unusual sounds like rattling, buzzing, or clanking when your AC is running can point to a compressor issue. Such noises might indicate internal components are failing or that there’s a loose part inside.

Tripped Circuit Breaker: If your AC is continually causing the circuit breaker to trip, it might be because the compressor is drawing more power than usual due to internal damage or wear.

Oil or Refrigerant Leaks: If you spot puddles or stains near your AC unit, it might be an indication that the compressor is leaking oil or refrigerant. This is a serious issue that needs immediate attention.

Hardened or Damaged Suction Lines: The lines going into the compressor should feel cool to touch. If they feel too hot or are showing signs of wear, it could be due to a failing compressor.

Swollen or Bloated Compressor Unit: Excessive heat can cause the compressor to swell, indicating it’s on its way out.

What To Do If You Spot These Signs?

If you’ve noticed one or more of these symptoms, it’s crucial to address them promptly. Neglecting compressor issues can lead to more severe problems, higher energy bills, and potentially the need for a complete AC replacement.

Always reach out to a professional HVAC technician, like the experts at Be Cool AC and Heating, to assess the situation. We have the skills and tools necessary to diagnose compressor problems accurately and provide solutions that best fit your needs.


Your AC compressor is vital for a cool and comfortable home, especially in the hot Houston summers. By understanding the signs of a failing compressor, you can take preventive steps to ensure the longevity of your AC system.

For any AC-related concerns or inquiries, don’t hesitate to contact Be Cool AC and Heating – where our primary goal is to keep Houston homes cool and comfortable.

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