If your air conditioner sends power surges through the home every time you use it, check the capacitor's wiring. Outdoor units are vulnerable to a host of hazards, including dirt and lizards. Sometimes, lizards enter the unit and play around the AC's wiring, or dirt builds up around the start and run capacitor. The capacitor is the power source or outlet for your outdoor unit. If it sustains damage or lacks sufficient power, the capacitor won't work. Solve your problem with the steps below.
Disconnect the Unit's Power
You'll need to examine the wiring in your outdoor unit to see if you can repair it on your own or call a professional HVAC contractor (such as D & W Heating & Air Conditioning Inc.). Before you do so, turn off your cooling system at the thermostat, then turn off the outdoor unit's compressor at the disconnect box. The small box is attached to the home's foundation near the AC. Depending on the type of disconnect box you have, you need to pull out the fuse box or flip the switch to the "off" position.
After disconnecting power, use a screwdriver to remove the paneling over the AC unit's capacitor, which is inside the long compartment found on the side of the unit. Be vigilant as you do so. If the paneling appears bent, warped or pulled away from the unit's housing, dirt and lizards can get inside the unit. You should make a note to replace the paneling as soon as possible to prevent future issues with your air conditioner.
Now, it's time to check the capacitor:
Check the Capacitor
The capacitor is a silver oblong-shaped container that usually sits on the left side of the power compartment. Four multi-colored wires connect to the capacitor, such as brown, purple, red, and yellow. Examine the wires for damage. If the unit's wires look broken or frayed, you need to call a contractor. You can't repair or reposition wiring that has these types of damages on your own, because they can cause an electrical fire or break down the air conditioning unit.
But if the wires are loose or pulled away from their contact pieces on the capacitor, you can reposition them yourself. Just follow the steps below:
- Push the wires and their connectors back into the capacitor. Don't force the connectors into place.
- Examine the black power piece sitting next to the capacitor. The four wires connect the capacitor to this piece. If the ends of the wires seem loose or pulled out of the power piece's connectors, reposition them.
- Use a small dry cloth to wipe down the surfaces of the capacitor and wires. You want to remove as much dirt as you can.
- Use a small toothbrush to sweep away leaves and dead lizards.
- Recover the power compartment and replace the screws.
Reconnect power to the unit, then turn on the air conditioning system at the thermostat. Wait at least 24 hours to see if the system shows any signs of power problems. If the unit works fine, you completed the repairs.
If the unit still has problems, contact your HVAC contractor for assistance. Your air conditioning system or capacitor may need additional repairs or maintenance.