What Causes AC Compressors to Burn Out?

Atlanta Heating & Air Solutions Mabelton

What Causes AC Compressors to Burn Out?

Compressor burnout can result in an uncomfortably hot summer for you and your family. All central air conditioning systems feature a compressor. It’s known colloquially as the “heart” of a central air conditioning system. Located in the condenser unit – the outdoor unit – the compressor is designed to increase the pressure of the refrigerant so that it becomes hotter. The condenser coil will then be able to release this heat, allowing the newly cooled refrigerant to enter the home and provide cooling power.

Compressors can burn out, however. A typical compressor has a lifespan of about 10 to 15 years. Regardless of your compressor’s age, it may burn out. When this occurs, it may be cheaper to replace the compressor rather than trying to fix it. By understanding what causes compressors to burn out, you can extend the life of your air conditioning system’s compressor.

Short Cycling

Short cycling can cause compressors to burn out. Short cycling is a phenomenon in which an air conditioning system frequently turns on and off while running for short periods. These runtime periods are cooling cycles. Each time your air conditioning system turns on, the compressor will start up. With short cycling, all of these startups can wear down the compressor while increasing its chance of premature failure.

Low Refrigerant

Maintaining proper refrigerant levels is essential to your compressor’s health. Compressors are designed to pressurize refrigerant, which in turn raises the temperature of the refrigerant. If your air conditioning system is low on refrigerant, your compressor will essentially be compressing air. Over time, this can damage your compressor and potentially cause it to burn out. 


Contaminants can spell disaster for compressors. Air conditioning systems are designed to be closed, meaning only refrigerant should run through their respective parts. But instances can occur that allow contaminants to enter an air conditioning system. If your air conditioning system has a leak, or if it was recently serviced, for instance, contaminants like moisture may enter it. Upon reaching the compressor, these contaminants may damage the compressor.


While their primary job is to raise the pressure and temperature of the refrigerant, compressors can burn out if they get too hot. Overheating, in fact, is one of the leading causes of compressor burnout. Most compressors are lubricated with oil. If they get too hot, the oil will burn off. This will increase the friction of the compressor’s moving parts, potentially causing catastrophic failure.

Need Help? Contact Us!

For all your heating and cooling needs in Mableton Georgia area, contact Atlanta Heating and Air Solutions. Our highly-skilled and experienced professionals can take on any repair, maintenance, or installation job – no matter how big or small. We offer a wide range of services to meet your every need, and we’re always available to answer any questions you may have.

It’s our goal to not only meet your expectations but to exceed them. If you need assistance with any aspect of your heating and cooling system, don’t hesitate to contact Atlanta Heating and Air Solutions. We’re here to help you in any way we can, and we’ll make sure the job is done right.

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