How to replace a capacitor on an AC

Did your AC stop blowing cold air? Are you dreading to call the AC guy? Did they charge you both arms and legs last time? Fear not! I will show you how to replace a capacitor on your home AC system, and help you save yourself $100-$300 by following these simple instructions. Capacitors are one of the most common things that could go wrong with an AC.

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You will need to have the required tools that I mentioned in my other post.

ALWAYS DISCONNECT THE ELECTRICAL POWER BEFORE OPENING THE UNIT!!!

Please always be cautious of the fan blade, and try not getting shocked from the electricity.

Capacitors will hold a charge after the unit is turned off. So avoid touching both the terminals together at the same time. Until you can safely discharge the capacitor by putting the metal part of a screwdriver across the terminals after the unit is turned off.

First sign that a capacitor will need to be replaced is usually the outdoor fan or compressor will not be kicking on. If your outdoor fan motor blade is stuck still when unit should be energized. Then that is a sign that the outdoor fan motor will need to be replaced. Whenever a motor is replaced. I recommend replacing the capacitor along with it. Most residential units will have single phase voltage. That means that both the outdoor fan motor and compressor will have a capacitor for them. Most residential units will use Dual Run Capacitors which is both capacitors built into one. Three phase motors don’t use capacitors.

If you don’t have a microfarad tester built into your multimeter. Then I recommend getting a separate tester for capacitors. It would be a cool tool to lend to your friend if his capacitor went bad on his unit. You can test a capacitor by taking the wires off the terminals. Then put the tester on the terminals. Your tester should read what the capacitor is rated for. So if your capacitor was a 40 microfarads, and the capacitor was reading 36.4. Then your capacitor is bad and needs to be replaced. The capacitors microfarad readings will need to be whatever the motor calls for plus or minus 6%.

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Most compressors run caps range anywhere from 30 microfarads to about 80 microfarads.

Most fan motors run caps range anywhere from 5 microfarads to 15 microfarads.

Both capacitors are either usually 370 VAC (Volts Alternating Current) or 440 VAC

Run capacitors are always silver. They could be separate or together in one dual unit.

Start Capacitors are always black, and are used only for starting older compressors. Kind of like a pace maker.

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Compressors have a built in safety circuit breaker that prevent it from running after it gets too hot. So if the fan capacitor failing caused the outdoor fan motor to stop running. The compressor probably kept on running till it overheated. So then compressor will not turn on again till it has cooled down some so the internal safety has reset. A trick some AC guys use will be to run some water over the compressor while it is off to cool down the compressor quicker.

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I know you probably have questions still. So please leave a comment, and I’ll update the article to address them.

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