You’re probably familiar with hard starting in vehicle engines. You turn on the ignition in an old car, and the motor grunts, grumbles, and struggles before it starts. This happens more often in colder climates than ours, but everyone knows what a hard-starting engine sounds like.
An air conditioning system can also hard start, although it makes different noises. Buzzing and humming sounds from the outdoor condenser cabinet indicate the compressor in the AC is fighting to get started. An air conditioner making a general racket when it turns on is probably hard starting.
And if your home’s AC is hard starting, don’t let it continue!
Why Hard Starting Happens
Here’s an important fact about how an air conditioner consumes energy: It takes 4 to 8 times more electricity to start an air conditioner than it does to keep it running. This extra energy overcomes initial compressor motor resistance. If the air conditioner becomes caught in this start-up process, taking much longer to activate, it drains a larger amount of power and can damage the AC.
This can happen for several reasons:
- The capacitors are losing their ability to hold a charge, sending less voltage to the motor.
- The compressor has lost lubrication and become “tight.”
- The motor is old and draws too much power to start.
- An imbalance in refrigerant pressure in the compressor is causing extra resistance.
No matter the trouble, hard starting requires a remedy. Technicians may find a problem in the AC they can fix to stop hard starting (such as putting in new capacitors). Or they may install a hard start kit into the air conditioner.
The Hard Start Kit
A hard start provides an extra voltage “kick” to overcome the initial resistance of the compressor motor. This is a basic solution to an air conditioner that is hard-starting because of age. A hard start kit can give an older air conditioner a few more years of productive service.
Although you can purchase hard start kits from some stores and online sources, don’t attempt to install a one on your own. Any high-voltage electrical system poses a potential safety hazard, and a mismatched hard start kit can end a compressor’s life in nothing flat. Leave this basic service to the technicians who handle it all the time.
Time to Install a New Air Conditioner?
Because an aging motor or compressor is the most common reason for hard starting, you may face the question of whether you should have the air conditioner replaced instead. A hard start kit may be the answer to getting five more good years out of the AC. Or it might be a band-aid on a system that will fail in the near future—and cost more to run until it dies.
When you call our technicians for AC repair in Orange County, CA, ask them for advice on this subject. Our experts are honest and provide straightforward answers. They’ll help you make the choice that’s best for the air conditioner and best for your household.
Saddleback Plumbing has proudly served Orange County since 1981. Schedule air conditioning service with us today.