Your air conditioning system relies on several different motors to function. There are two motors in the AC condenser unit outside your house—the condenser fan motor and the compressor motor. There is another motor located inside your home that powers the blower fan and allows the system to circulate air throughout the house. These motors can fail simply due to age and normal wear and tear. Issues with poor airflow and other AC problems can also lead to the motors overheating and burning out.
The good news is that your AC motors can be replaced. However, there are some cases where it may make more sense to replace the entire unit instead. Either way, you’ll need to hire a certified AC technician to inspect the motor and repair or replace it as needed. If you try to replace the motor on your own or do any other work on your AC system, chances are good that all you’ll do is make things worse. Let’s now look at the signs that can indicate your AC motors are failing and how each one is replaced.
Replacing the Fan Blower Motor
If the fan blower motor is burnt out, it obviously won’t turn on at all. This means your AC system won’t work until you have the motor replaced. Your heating system also won’t work since the same fan also circulates heat throughout the home. In most cases, you will first notice some obvious signs that indicate the blower motor is beginning to fail.
For instance, you may hear loud squealing or grinding noises when the fan is on. This is a sign that the ball bearings are beginning to wear out and the motor will soon need to be replaced. Another potential sign is if your evaporator coil regularly freezes up. This can occur because the motor is no longer circulating enough hot air over the coil to keep it from freezing, but it can also happen simply because the coil is dirty and needs to be cleaned.
You may also notice that your HVAC system begins to put out much less air volume than normal. This issue can result from a failing blower motor, but it can also happen because your air filter is dirty, your vents are clogged, or your ductwork is leaking. Since some of the signs of a failing blower motor can also be related to other issues, you will need to have an HVAC technician inspect the motor and the rest of your AC system to determine the specific cause.
If the technician determines that the motor needs to be replaced, they will start by turning the power off, disconnecting the wiring, and removing the entire fan assembly from the air handler. They can then take apart the fan assembly and unbolt the motor from the housing. The new motor is then bolted in place and the fan assembly is put back together. Finally, they will slide the assembly back into the air handler and reconnect the wires before testing to make sure the new motor is working correctly.
Replacing the Condenser Fan Motor
The fan in the AC condenser serves a much different role than the blower fan. When this fan spins, it helps to disperse heat from the condenser unit. As your AC runs, cold refrigerant liquid in the evaporator coil absorbs heat from inside the home. This raises the temperature of the refrigerant turning it from a liquid into a gas, and the hot refrigerant travels back out to the condenser coil in the outdoor unit.
The condenser fan blows air over the condenser coil to speed up the rate at which the heat is released into the air outside. As the refrigerant cools, it travels into the compressor. This compresses the refrigerant back into a liquid, which instantly releases the remaining heat so the refrigerant can then absorb more heat from inside the home.
If the condenser fan motor fails, the system won’t be able to properly disperse the heat. This drastically lessens its ability to cool your home as the refrigerant will remain hotter and thus unable to absorb as much heat. In addition, this issue puts a huge amount of additional strain on the compressor motor and can cause it to burn out or overheat.
As with the blower fan motor, the condenser fan motor will usually begin to make a loud rattling or squealing noises when it starts to fail. A failing motor may also cause the fan blades to spin slower than usual. In other cases, the fan may continue to run even after the rest of the AC system shuts off. If the fan doesn’t run at all, this indicates that either the motor is burnt out or there is an obstruction preventing the blades from spinning.
Replacing the condenser fan motor is a simple task. After shutting off the AC system, the technician will remove the cover or grate from the outdoor unit. This grate is what secures the fan assembly in place. Once the fan assembly is removed, the technician will disconnect the motor and replace it with the new one. The system is then reassembled and tested.
Replacing the Compressor Motor
A burnt-out or failing compressor motor is generally the worst AC problem you can encounter. If the motor is completely dead, you won’t be able to get your AC to turn on. This can also happen due to electrical problems or because your thermostat is faulty.
If the motor starts to fail, it often causes the unit to short cycle. This is when it rapidly turns on and off without ever starting to cool. You may also hear loud clicking noises coming from the outdoor unit each time it tries to start. This issue can also occur if the capacitor is bad, which is the first thing the technician will check.
It is possible to replace the compressor motor, but this is very rarely done. The reason is that the motor itself usually costs anywhere from $400 to well over $2,000. On top of that, you can also expect to pay several hundred dollars more in labor costs as the job usually takes close to a full day. Before anything else can be done, it is first necessary to drain and reclaim the refrigerant. The system will then need to be recharged with refrigerant once the new motor is installed. In most cases, it will cost close to the same to replace the entire outdoor condenser unit as it will to replace the compressor motor.
There is only ever one situation where replacing this motor makes sense, and this is if your AC is less than 10 years old and still under warranty. In this situation, the AC manufacturer will cover the cost of all necessary parts, and you will only have to pay for labor. If your AC isn’t under warranty, you are always best to replace the condenser unit. This is especially true if your AC is close to 15 years old since even with a new compressor motor it will still likely need to be replaced within the next few years.
At Billfish Air Conditioning, LLC, our technicians have years of experience replacing fan motors and performing all other AC repairs. We work on all brands and models of central ACs, and we also provide a full range of other HVAC services to residential and commercial customers in Stuart. If your AC needs to be replaced, we specialize in installation and can help you choose the best new unit for your home or business. Give us a call today if you need to have your AC inspected or any other cooling or heating service.