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Brown's Heating & Cooling Blog

AC Compressor Failure: Do You Repair or Replace?


So, you’ve been told (or you suspect) that your air conditioner’s compressor has failed and is the cause of your cooling system breakdown. The next question is, should you pay to have your system repaired, or should you have it replaced? Before we answer this, we have to explain the role of the compressor in your air conditioner.

If the thermostat serves as the brain of your AC, then the compressor is the heart. It’s what enables the refrigerant process so that your air conditioner will actually do the job it was designed to do. When the compressor fails, the whole air conditioner fails along with it. Sure, your fans might still run, but you won’t feel any cooled air coming out through the vents.

When you ask “Should I repair my air conditioner or replace it,” in this case, what you’re really asking is if you should replace the compressor or buy a whole new air conditioner. The latter is usually the right answer, but not in every instance.

Repairing Your AC by Replacing the Compressor

When a compressor fails, the only way to “repair” your air conditioner is to replace that component. And this might seem like the best option for you—it’s far more affordable than buying a whole new air conditioner, right? In some cases, it really is the best option.

Take your system’s manufacturer warranty. Is it still good? If your cooling system is under the age of 10, and you’ve had it professionally maintained each year, then there is a good chance the system is still under warranty. So, yes, you should go ahead and have the compressor replaced. You won’t be financially responsible for the compressor itself in this case, and while you’ll have to pay for labor you don’t have to worry about investing in a new compressor.

In most instances, however, a compressor fails because the AC is old (and the warranty probably won’t be good anymore if it is). A well-maintained system can last about 10-15 years, but if your system has reached this age and the compressor has failed, it may be a good idea to upgrade instead of replacing just the compressor. Putting a new compressor in an old air conditioner means even though you’ll have this one new component, other parts of your AC will start breaking down and you’ll soon need to replace the system anyway.

“But, Can’t I Just Replace the Outside Unit?”

The compressor of your air conditioner is housed in the condenser unit of the system—the outdoor portion. If the system is in great condition otherwise, and is no longer under warranty, then this could be a viable option for your budget.

You do still run a risk here, however—cooling systems have become more advanced in recent years. So retrofitting a brand new condenser unit to the older indoor component of your air conditioner might backfire. You could end up with inefficient operation and wind up having to replace the whole system anyway, or try to hodgepodge a new indoor unit to the system in a couple of years to still discover operational problems.  

If your compressor fails, give our team a call. We’ll help you make an informed decision about what the next best steps might be for your specific system and home.

Contact Brown’s Heating & Cooling for your air conditioning repair needs in Colorado Springs.

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