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Does Your Air Conditioner Run Hot and Cold? Here’s Why

Nothing beats sitting in an air-conditioned room during the hottest days of the year when you know you could be sweating through your shirt outside. When an A/C unit isn’t functioning correctly the temperature in the room can rise within a matter of minutes. This is not only uncomfortable for you and your family but can become quite costly to your energy bill. If there are temperature fluctuations coming from your unit then the air conditioner capacitor could be at fault.

Ruling Out Other Defective Parts

Before we can assume that an air conditioner capacitor is at fault for the temperature output inconsistency, we need to understand which symptoms rule it out altogether. The
air conditioning system consists of five mechanical components such as the following.

  • Fan
  • Evaporator Coil (cold air)
  • Condenser Coil (hot air)
  • Compressor
  • Refrigerant

Assuming the air conditioner puts out cold air at a consistent rate, you can most likely say that the mechanical parts are working as intended. Check refrigerant connections for leaks, fans for cracks or damage, coils for correct temperature production and ensure the compressor kicks on when you start it.

Diagnosing a Bad Capacitor

If the other parts are in good working order then you may be able to rule them out. The main function of a capacitor is to send and maintain electrical voltage to the motor. If the air conditioner capacitor is not functioning as intended, it may send weak voltage levels to the motor or fail to start or stay running after it has started. This is why an A/C system may only kick out cold air at the beginning of a power cycle and why minutes later you could notice the room heating up once again, even if it’s still running. If the fans are spinning while the A/C is humming, this is another major sign of a bad capacitor.

What Causes a Capacitor to Become Faulty?

All capacitors go bad eventually from normal everyday use, but there are a few different major reasons a capacitor could wear out quickly. If any of these reasons apply to your situation, it could help you make an informed diagnosis of a faulty air conditioner capacitor.

Age- Most capacitors have a 20-year life expectancy but can go out sooner than expected if the capacitor is not large enough to power the system, the wrong type of capacitor is installed or the unit power cycles rapidly.

Voltage Rating- If a capacitor’s voltage rating is lower than what is intended for the A/C unit it will have to run more often, thus making the capacitor die sooner. That’s why it’s crucial to put the correct voltage air conditioner capacitor inside the unit if replacing it.

Heat Damage- Since heat buildup can cause serious damage within a capacitor, you can’t let it become overexposed to heat. Some ways to prevent this from occurring include keeping it within the shade and cleaning it regularly.