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Kilowatt Heating, Air Conditioning and Electrical Blog

When the Compressor Fails, Do You Need to Replace the Whole AC?


The compressor is the workhorse of an air conditioning system. It’s like the engine—without it, nothing happens and an air conditioner becomes a central fan blowing around room temperature air.

What happens when the compressor in your AC stops working and it can’t be repaired? This is a serious situation, and you’ll have a number of options to consider—one of which is to have the entire air conditioning system replaced. Is this the best option, or are the other choices more cost-effective?

Your range of options for a dead compressor

You have four options for moving ahead with cooling for your home when the compressor fails. You could replace the entire air conditioner—the outdoor condenser (which houses the compressor and exhaust fan), the indoor evaporator coil, and the air handler. Often this involves replacing the furnace as well if it’s installed in the same cabinet as the air handler and evaporator coil.

The other three options are to replace the compressor only; replace the whole outdoor condensing unit; or replace the outdoor condensing unit and indoor evaporator, leaving the air handler and the furnace.

Is the compressor under warranty?

If the compressor is still under warranty from the manufacturer, then your best choice is probably to replace the compressor only. Doing a compressor replacement is the most expensive single air conditioning repair in Burbank, CA you may need, so if the warranty still covers it, you’ll be in good shape.

What if the compressor isn’t under warranty?

The choice is less clear if you have an older system (more than 10 years) that isn’t under warranty. The decision will rest on a number of other factors about the air conditioner as well as your budget plans.

If the air conditioner doesn’t have any other major malfunctions and has shown no other signs of problems aside from the compressor, putting in a new condenser is probably the best choice. Remember, you must have professionals do this, since they must correctly match the new condenser to the indoor evaporator. A mismatched system will work inefficiently. If you recently put in a new furnace indoors, you won’t want to change it out right away, so in this case you’ll also want to stay with just the condenser.

However, if you have the budget available, we recommend you always change the indoor coil along with the outdoor condenser. This guarantees you’ll have a properly matched system and the combined installation cost is cheaper than doing both at separate times. You’ll also receive a new warranty from the manufacturer.

What about replacing the whole thing?

This is obviously the most costly choice and one you’ll need to consider carefully. It’s the best long-term solution, since it comes with not only the advantages of changing the condenser and indoor coil, it lets you upgrade to the best in new energy efficiency technology, improved humidity control, quiet operation, and new climate controls.

Don’t worry if you feel confused about these choices—you can always ask for our professional assistance. We’ll help you find the replacement choice that meets all your needs.

Rescue your air conditioning with a call. Kilowatt Heating, Air Conditioning and Electrical serves Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.

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