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Preventing Repeat Compressor Failures

June 25, 2016

DSC_3221When an HVAC compressor fails, it’s usually easy to locate the problem and swap out the defective part with a replacement. Sounds quick and simple to get back up and running, right?  Well, it is but it isn’t. The problem with this repair in particular is that while most technicians can easily locate the issue and replace the parts, those actions don’t truly address the root of the problem.

But if my system works, does the root of the problem matter?

It’s easy to take this frame of mind, ignoring the real problem and moving on. But, replacing your faulty compressor without locating the cause of the problem increases the likelihood that your compressor will fail time and time again. Repeat compressor failures are a constant issue in commercial HVAC. This is problematic for a number of reasons…

  • Equipment is never really fixed—just patched up until the next failure
  • The customer isn’t satisfied with the experience (inconvenient downtime, frequent service calls and regular replacements)
  • The service provider and technician appear incompetent, potentially damaging their reputation in the marketplace

So, replacement parts will fix the issue, but there’s usually something else going on in the system. The challenge is to find the problem because the system is not running and refrigerating normally. It’s often not until the part is replaced that a technician can troubleshoot why the original compressor failed. A reputable, experienced HVAC technician should perform a complete inspection to diagnose the issue.

There are several causes that may be found once the replacement compressor is back up and operating:

Liquid Return—When it’s not boiled off in the evaporator, liquid refrigerant may push compressor oil out of the compressor and into the system.  If high concentrations of liquid refrigerant come in contact with the oil, the lubrication decreases and the system is vulnerable to breakdown.  

High-Return Gas Temperature—Overheating compressors can experience suction valve failure, damaged pistons, and sludge or carbon formation.  This affects proper lubrication and causes the compressor to stop working.   

High-Discharge Temperature—An excessive discharge line temperature can result in elevated levels of the compressor’s internal temperature at the discharge valve.  When the temperature gets too high, oil and refrigerants can start to break down.

System Overcharge/Incorrect Compressor Voltage—An overcharged system will cause pressures to increase, which leads to clutch slipping.  Excessive noise is an indicator that the system has improper voltage.

Related:  Why commercial maintenance pays for itself

Prevention is key

Although most of these causes are identifiable once the replacement is installed, they’re all easily prevented with regular maintenance. We sympathize with your hesitation in committing to a long-term maintenance contract. However, poorly-maintained systems consume far more energy than those that receive regular service, and frequent repair expenses can add up to excessive costs and inconvenient downtime.  

Your best line of defense in preventing repeat compressor failures is to outsource commercial HVAC maintenance to Dominion Service Company. Our commercial service agreements aren’t one size fits all; instead, they’re tailored to the needs of your property and the specifications of your systems. For an on-site consultation to set up a commercial plan, contact us today!