How common is commercial HVAC compressor failure really, and how do you know when your compressor is going bad? If you are having commercial HVAC problems, you may not know where to start when it comes to troubleshooting. Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to tell whether or not your commercial HVAC compressor is at fault. Here's what you need to know:
Ticking and Clicking
In the early stage of compressor failure, you may notice that your commercial HVAC system begins to make strange noises. In general, your AC system should be relatively quiet when operating normally. Failing systems will begin to make noises when the compressor first starts up. Over time, the ticking and clicking will get worse and will start happening all the time when your system is on. You definitely want to get this checked out sooner rather than later if you suspect that something is wrong.
Restricted Air Flow
Another early sign of commercial compressor failure is when you start to notice less and less airflow coming through your vents. This is because the compressor is not building up pressure the way it's supposed to. Even if the fan is running, you will still notice that the airflow is less and less forceful and will likely be room temperature, not cool.
Blowing Hot Air
When things have really gone wrong, your system will start blowing warm or hot air instead of cooled air. Usually, this means that your compressor failure has to do with low refrigerant levels. When a refrigerant leak occurs, your compressor may still be moving air, but there is nothing in the coils to cool it off. In fact, the air may come out hotter than it went into the system because it is passing over a hot motor and compressor that are working inefficiently.
If a refrigerant leak is the cause of your problems, you will likely see signs of moisture building up elsewhere in the system. Usually, this means condensation or ice forming on the lines, or puddles forming after the system thaws out. This may not be readily visible in a commercial HVAC system, but you will definitely notice if your HVAC starts dumping water into your ceiling. Keep an eye out for any signs of leaking that could cause permanent damage to your compressor.
Some newer commercial HVAC compressors have fail-safe systems in place to protect the main unit. If your compressor is going bad, it may cause the breaker to flip over and over again. This usually happens when the system is overheating and begins pulling more power in an effort to keep up with the demands of the thermostat. If it is unable to hit the desired temperature, it will stay on, working longer and harder until it completely overheats. If you find that you are having to check the breaker often, make sure you have the compressor inspected for damage.
These are just a few of the major signs that your commercial HVAC compressor could be on its way out the door. As always, it is best to catch the problem early on when you start noticing more noise and warmer air coming out of your vents. If you let it go for too long, you will likely find yourself with a severe failure that starts interfering with normal operations due to leaks, breakers flipping, or hot air making your space uncomfortable. Once you've reached this point, you will need to call a professional to diagnose the problem and determine whether or not your compressor can be repaired or need a full replacement to fix the problem long term.