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How Does an Air Conditioner Compressor Work?

July 29, 2021 | Blog

The inner workings of an air conditioner can be complicated. It may seem like a technician is speaking a different language when discussing your air conditioning unit, so here is a quick run-down about the AC compressor in your HVAC unit.

What is an AC compressor?

First, there are two systems that work together within an entire AC unit. One is in charge of air circulation which purifies the air in the room and pushes it through evaporator coils that cool down the air. The second system is the condenser unit which is usually installed outside of the home. The compressor’s job is to keep the refrigerant constantly moving and to pressurize the system. Basically, it cycles on and off continuously to cool down your home.

What type of HVAC systems require compressors?

Central air conditioners include compressors in their buildup which acts as the central heartbeat of the operation. Whether you have a split-system central AC or a packaged central AC, ensuring that the compressor properly matches the indoor unit is vital for your comfort and proper operation.

How does an AC Compressor work?

First, the compressor is located within the outside unit and acts as the top component to cool down the refrigerant. Since heat rises to fill cooler spaces, the room temperature air passes through the evaporator unit which takes the heat from the air away. That heat taken away goes to the refrigerant and is then fed directly into the compressor. This is when the true magic begins:

Step 1: The refrigerant is compressed into a fluid and then released under pressure

Step 2: The heat from the refrigerant is soaked up by the condenser coils

Step 3: At the end of the loop, the refrigerant is cold again and fed into the evaporator coils

Step 4: As long as the AC is turned on, this cycle continues to keep your home cool

How to know if your AC compressor needs repair

Since the compressor is one of the most important parts of an air conditioning system, it is inevitable for this part to go through some serious wear and tear. Be mindful of these signs that your AC compressor may be failing:

  • Strange noises coming from the unit
  • A drastic change in airflow or temperature
  • Leaking moisture or refrigerant around the unit

Any sort of leaking moisture coming from your AC unit could be a health risk depending on what the unit is leaking. If you are experiencing a leak, always rely on a professional to handle the situation. Any of these problems are bad signs for an AC unit, so do not hesitate to call Big Mountain Air for any inspections, replacements, or installations.

At Big Mountain Air we want everyone to feel like they are knowledgeable about the air conditioning units in their home. Schedule a consultation today or call us with any questions regarding your HVAC unit.

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What Our Customers Have To Say

Good Rebates

This is a review for a complete HVAC system replacement from Big Mountain. I started at the SMUD website looking for the best rebate program and found a list of contractors there. I vetted out companies that had a lower number of completed jobs per the SMUD rebate program data.

Lee S.

Very Professional

Had my A/C go out yesterday, called Big Mountain today and they had a serviceman in my area of Lincoln, he was here within a half hour and fix my unit in a very professional manner, and the cost was reasonable. I was very impressed with the company and the serviceman.

Tom D.


I had a appointment with them between 1-3 and one of their staff members called me and kept me updated when they will arrive which was nice. Steve arrived on time and was really nice for explaining what could the cause be. My ac fan was working but cool air wasn’t coming out.

Krystal L.