Why Is My AC Compressor Working But Not Cooling?

air conditioner compressor working but not cooling house

Heat can zap our energy. On a hot day, work can seem a lot more difficult. Even sleep can be elusive due to discomfort. Air conditioners are supposed to help us get through sizzling summers, but what if they are not cooling the home? Sometimes these units draw power without producing a significant change in temperature. When it happens, we are left scratching our heads and trying our best to find a solution. Expert assistance can get systems up and running in no time at all. This article sets out to answer a common air conditioner phenomenon –  Why is my AC compressor working but not cooling?

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Why Is My AC Compressor Working But Not Cooling?

Air conditioners are composed of several parts that work together to produce the desired cooling results. If one of them is not functioning correctly, then it could set off a chain reaction that will lead to problems. Identifying the cause of failure is the key to a quick fix. Homeowners should observe their cooling system to uncover useful clues. For those who are in a hurry, there is always the option to call a professional HVAC technician. Certified air conditioning techs can use their knowledge and experience to come up with long-term solutions. Now let’s look at some of the common causes:

1. Incorrect Thermostat Setup

modern programming thermostat for air conditioning

Before we assume that something is failing, it may be better to suppose that the system is working fine. Maybe the settings are preventing it from cooling the home. You can check through the thermostat. Is everything where it should be at? Could you change the numbers or move the dial to make it colder? Do it and wait a few minutes to see whether there is any improvement. It is possible that someone else modified the settings while you were gone. If it gets colder, then you have already solved the problem. Enjoy your comfortable environment.

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2. Dirty Air Filter

home air filter replacement for an air conditioning system

The air conditioner air filter plays a vital role in safeguarding indoor air quality. It allows air to flow into the cooling system while blocking dirt, pollutants, allergens, and pathogens. Thanks to the filter, the components stay clean which helps them function more effectively and continue to serve for longer. However, the dirt that filters capture can begin to impede airflow and cause efficiency issues. The system will have a hard time cooling the home when this happens. Homeowners should try to see if replacing the HVAC filter fixes the problem. This is relatively cheap and easy to install.

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3. Blocked Air Conditioner Condenser Unit

In a central air conditioning system, there is an outdoor condenser unit with a large coil. This is made up of thin metal fins that are close together. During normal operation, condenser fans pull air into the outdoor unit, passing through the coil to remove heat from the home. Blades of grass, dirt and other forms of debris may get stuck between the fins and interfere with this process. A dirty air conditioner coil will have poor energy efficiency. It can also lead to a lack of cool air from the registers. Clean the coil with a brush and vacuum. Call a technician if the problem persists. It is important to note that scheduling an annual air conditioner tune-up includes a thorough cleaning of the system, promoting system efficiency and operation.

4. Frozen Air Conditioning Evaporator Coil

dirt on air conditioner coils

The indoor unit of the cooling system includes an evaporator coil. The warm indoor air goes through the coil, transferring heat to the refrigerant and reducing humidity in the environment. Cooler air blows indoors to improve the family’s comfort level. Frozen evaporator coils interfere with this setup such that the air conditioner cannot produce cold air. Among the signs to watch out for is frost on the copper air conditioner refrigerant tubing, higher energy bills, frost on the outdoor unit, excessive condensate drainage, and inadequate cooling. It is hard to reach the evaporator coil so homeowners should avoid DIY solutions. Instead, call an HVAC professional for assistance.

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5. Air Conditioner Refrigerant Leak

hvac contractor looking for a refrigerant leak in an air conditioner

The air conditioner refrigerant is a substance that flows across the system from the outdoor unit to the indoor unit and back. As it travels, it changes state from liquid to gas. It also goes up and down in temperature as it absorbs heat indoors and expels this outdoors. This chemical is critical to the cooling process, so there must always be enough of it going around. Leaks may develop along the tubes, gradually reducing the amount of refrigerant in the system. This hampers its ability to cool the home. It may even strain the system and cause air conditioner compressor failure. Ask your HVAC contractor to check the refrigerant level and add more, if necessary. This is also something that the HVAC contractor checks during an air conditioner inspection.

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6. Undersized Air Conditioner

Every air conditioning system has its own cooling capacity. You need to install an air conditioner that meets your home’s needs. If you chose an undersized air conditioner, then you may not get adequate cooling. This will be particularly evident during the peak of summer when temperatures are at their highest and the air conditioning system is pushed to its limits. You might want to check the AC unit’s rating at the back and use rules of thumb to determine adequacy. Better yet, you can ask an HVAC professional to conduct scientific load calculations, something that your air conditioner installation company should have done when installing the unit in the first place.


7. Leaky HVAC Ducts

The ducts guide the conditioned air to the different rooms of the house. If there are leaks along these paths, then the affected rooms might never get cold enough while the others are doing just fine. Cold air could rush out. Warm air might also get inside the ducts if they travel through warm spaces like the attic. Instead of getting cold air from the vents, you might feel warm air coming out. Room temperature can increase rather than decrease. Repairs are tricky because air is invisible, so finding and sealing all the leaks requires clever techniques. Get an experienced HVAC technician to do this for you.

8. The Air Conditioner Registers Are Dirty Or Blocked

Air Conditioner Registers Are Dirty

Dirt can accumulate on HVAC registers over time. At some point, it can get bad enough that air has difficulty flowing through them. Homeowners should clean these regularly to prevent further problems. Sometimes registers may also get blocked by furniture due to poor placement. Rearranging these should result in better airflow in an instant. You might also use the vacuum cleaner to catch the dirt all round and wipe the surface clean for good measure. You can also detach the registers and place them in the dishwasher.

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9. Excessive Heat From The Sun

The sun unleashes its full power during summer. If you have an air conditioner with enough power, then you should be able to counter heat and stay comfortable. If not, then it will struggle to cool the house. You should also check whether direct sunlight is hitting the thermostat. If that happens, then the sensors might think that the room is hotter than it is. This will push the system into overdrive, create massive stress, and trigger instability. Prevent this by drawing your window shades during the day to keep the sun out. This will lower the heat load in your home.

10. Neglected Proper Air Conditioner Maintenance

image of an air conditioner tune-up

Air conditioners require constant care to function optimally. Some maintenance tasks are easy enough for homeowners to perform by themselves including exterior cleaning and filter replacement. However, other tasks are more difficult. They require the expertise of trained HVAC technicians. Invite them over for a thorough system tune-up once or twice a year. They will find potential issues and prevent these from getting worse. With their help, you can avoid expensive repairs.

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11. Problems with the Exterior Fan Motor

air conditioner condenser fan close up

The outdoor unit has a fan motor that helps to push heat away from the home. If the fan develops problems, then the compressor might overheat. This could cause a sudden system shutdown to prevent further damage. This requires a technical solution that professionals can provide. Act quickly so that things won’t get worse.


Everyone wants to stay cool in their homes. Air conditioners help us beat the heat and remain productive. However, problems such as inadequate cooling may arise. The list above should help in your preliminary assessment. Also, be sure to schedule annual air conditioner tune-ups to prevent those unnecessary cooling problems from happening. If basic troubleshooting does not work, then seek the assistance of HVAC technicians for immediate relief. They will provide an accurate diagnosis, lasting solutions, and practical advice at a reasonable cost.

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Call McAllister Energy For All Of Your HVAC Requirements

McAllister EnergyMcAllister Energy offers superior heating and cooling services in Camden County, New Jersey. We hire the best-certified technicians who can provide you with excellent HVAC tune-ups, repairs, installations, and replacements. Each of our techs has the knowledge and experience to service your HVAC system correctly.

McAllister Energy guarantees the most competitive heating and cooling service costs in the area. Our maintenance services can improve your comfort, increase your energy efficiency while reducing your home heating and cooling costs. If you happen to need an HVAC repair or replacement system, we can recommend the best one for your home while staying within your budget. We back all of our work with a guarantee to ensure your satisfaction. To schedule a service appointment, give McAllister Energy a call today. We offer free, in-home estimates.

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