The familiar feeling of getting home to your precious air conditioner, turning it on, and taking the pleasure to lounge in its cool breeze is undoubtedly one of the best feelings in the world.
Now, if you were to come back and power on your AC unit, only to experience the horrors of start-up issues, or an irritating humming sound, or one of those problems where your AC keep starting and stopping in a sudden and abrupt manner- I think it is safe to deduce that you wouldn’t be pleased.
A bad AC capacitor is one of the biggest reasons behind the issues listed above. Your AC’s capacitor is, in fact, one of the most important assets of your unit.
The capacitor maintains a certain electrical charge, through which it allows your AC to turn on. It acts as a storage facility for energy, and once collected, uses all this power to enable the workings of different components of your AC such as the compressor, fan, blower, condenser, etc.
Thus, it’s safe to say that a good capacitor is absolutely necessary to ensure the smooth functioning of your AC. However, like every other part of your unit, the capacitor is subject to facing its own problems resulting in its ‘going bad’.
At such a time, it is crucial to be able to identify the bad capacitor, as well as replace it in a timely manner so that the AC doesn’t remain exposed to further injuries.
This article aims at guiding you through stages of recovery from a bad AC capacitor.
What Causes A Bad AC Capacitor?
It is helpful to know your AC components so as to direct your future purchases. Before we discuss AC capacitors’ replacement, here are a few reasons why your capacitor might be going bad in the first place. Knowing these causes can help you tackle the problem at the root.
Your AC capacitor is old
Simple and straightforward. Nothing can contribute more to a bad capacitor than its increasingly old age. Like every other living and non-living thing in the world, your capacitor loses its shine and storage capacity as the years go by.
With every charge and discharge period, the capacitor deteriorates until it stops working properly altogether.
You are trying to draw excess power from the capacitor
If the power being taken out or discharged from your capacitor is more than the electrical charge that it is able to withhold, your capacitor will experience an overload.
For every capacitor, there is a certain number of electrical charges that it can contain. Trying to take more out of it will cause the part to malfunction.
The capacitor is overheating
AC capacitors are easy to damage because of their intricate structure. They can only take a certain degree of temperature before they backfire.
They are commonly known to fail in situations of high outside temperatures or high voltage. Internal heating can also cause the capacitor to overheat easily.
AC Capacitor Prices
On average an ac capacitor can cost between $80 to $250 depending upon brand and size without including the installation cost. To replace your AC capacitor, you have to consider the cost of the capacitor part as a standalone, alongside the labor cost for installation.
It is not a must that you buy a capacitor from the same manufacturer of the AC. For AC capacitors as parts, the price can depend on the brand, as well as the size/capacity of the capacitor.
However, the brand can considerably influence the cost of the part. Most fall in between $9 to $45. You can find lower-priced alternatives in brands like Carrier and Goodman. But if you’re looking for a luxurious edge to your capacitor, brands like Lennox have units that go up to $80.
The type of capacitor you purchase, as well as the voltage and charge capacity of your capacitor also contribute to an increase or decrease in price.
For instance, single-run capacitors are priced lower between $8 and $30, while dual-run models can cost around $15-$45.
Replacement and Installation Guide: Price and Process
The price of replacement and installation, added to the original cost of the capacitor itself, concludes the total cost attributed to the full replacement process of a capacitor.
You can choose to install an AC capacitor yourself or call in a professional to do it.
For self-installation, factors like the tools/equipment needed, capacitor type, etc, influence the price. You can expect to pay anywhere between $50-$200 while installing it yourself. The higher the price of the capacitor and the tools required, the higher the total replacement cost.
In terms of professional installation, you can expect a technician to charge a labor cost of around $120-$400. Obviously, this adds a couple of extra bucks compared to self-installation, but this is a safer process, as you’ll be tampering with intimate internal parts of your AC.
For a self-driven installation, you can expect to spend up to $200 taking into consideration all the factors. A professionally replaced AC capacitor can cost around $140-$400.
How To Identify A Bad AC Capacitor?
Your AC capacitor could go bad in itself, but it is absolutely vital that you, as a user, know how to identify the signs and symptoms of a bad capacitor.
Once you’re aware that there is some problem with it, you can easily move on to replace the part. One of the first and most common signs of a bad capacitor is usually reflected in the performance of your AC.
If you hear a frequent humming sound from your AC- especially the outside unit, you can assume that there is a problem with the capacitor. This is because of the fan motor located in the outside unit.
The fan motor receives its power from the capacitor, and when no charge is being drawn from it, the motor tries and fails to start up, which results in the humming sound.
One of the most common symptoms is that your AC starts blowing hot air in place of cold air. This is also a result of the compressor failing to receive the designated electrical charge from the capacitor.
Increase in Electricity bills
If you find that the number on your electricity bill for the month has increased, it is possible that your capacitor is behind this. Usually, when it fails to function appropriately and discharge power to your AC as required, the AC might start depending on the main power supply. In turn, this results in a higher consumption rate and payment.
If you take the time to pick apart your AC and examine your capacitor, you will find that it looks bulged. The capacitor has a typically flat top surface. However, in this case, you will find that it may be rounded, and also covered in a sticky substance. This usually indicates that it is old.
Bad capacitors can cause many issues with your AC. You can recognize it through signs like start-up failure, late cooling effect, lack of cool air entirely, abrupt starting and stopping of the AC, and so on.
Things to consider before buying a new AC capacitor
If you’ve been experiencing any of the factors listed above, it is probably time to get your AC a new and working capacitor. A bad capacitor can cause serious harm to your ACs performance. Some factors to consider before you dive into the capacitor market are:
Type of AC Capacitor
You have to determine the type of capacitor you need to keep your AC running. They are of two types: single run or dual run. If you don’t know what you need, you can run a small capacitor test, by which you insert a thin wooden stick into the grates and try to push your ACs fan to move.
If the fan does not spin, your AC uses a single-run capacitor. However, if the fan takes off and starts spinning by itself, you’ll have to look for a double-run capacitor.
The shape of the capacitor
Another thing to note is the shape of your current capacitor. It is not advised to change the shape when you buy a new capacitor, as your AC is only compatible with the original shape.
You might find that your AC uses a round run or an oval capacitor. Ensure that the capacitor you buy fits in the internal space of your AC.
The third thing to consider when you buy a new AC capacitor is that it matches the energy charge and discharge rate of the previous one. Buying a capacitor with higher or lower energy storage can lead to more problems in the working of the AC.
For instance, you may experience frequent power surges and overloads with a lower-charged capacitor. You can refer to the Capacitance, Voltage Rating, and Tolerance rating of your capacitor in the AC manual.
The manual dictates the required voltage range that works for the AC overall, so you should look for a capacitor that falls within that range.
The AC capacitor is the heart of your AC. With good maintenance and care, you can keep it running smoothly for a long time, but there will always come a time to replace it. So make sure to check all the factors and then replace it.
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