“Overheating” is a term that you might hear applied to many different appliances and electronics, but it can be pretty vague. Does it mean something was sitting out in the sun too long? Working too hard? Left in a sauna? While we can’t speak for every product you own, we can provide you with some information on what overheating means when it’s applied to your air conditioner. Today we’re going to explain what happens when your air conditioner is overheating and what can cause the problem!

What does it mean when your air conditioner is overheating?

When an air conditioner is overheating, it’s putting in much more work than it is capable of handling. This forces the system to consume a huge amount of energy, which causes one or more of its parts to heat up and eventually shut down. The most obvious sign that your air conditioner is overheating is when your system trips the circuit breaker. This happens when the flow of electricity to your air conditioner is too high and your system shuts down as a safety precaution.
Many different components of your air conditioner can overheat, including the compressor, fan motors, capacitors, and more.

Why do air conditioners overheat?

  • Clogged air filter. When your air conditioner’s fan pulls in air from your home to be cooled, that air must pass through a filter. If your filter is clogged, the fan will have to work much harder than usual to do its job. You can compare this to the difference between taking a deep breath normally and taking a deep breath through a straw; you have to put in much more effort when your flow of air is restricted through a straw. The extra effort that your fan must exert when your filter is clogged can cause it to overheat.
  • Dirty fan blades. Another thing that can cause your air handler to overheat is dirt buildup on the fan’s blades. As dirt accumulates on the blades, it weighs them down and makes it much harder for the fan to spin. This can eventually cause the fan to overheat.
  • Low refrigerant levels. Your air conditioner is designed to operate with a specific amount of refrigerant. If your system has a refrigerant leak, it will not have enough refrigerant available to cool your home properly. This forces your air conditioner to work much harder and longer than usual, which can lead to overheating.
  • Dirty or frozen coils. If your air conditioner’s cooling coils are either dirty or frozen over, there will be a barrier in between the coils and the air that’s blown over them. This can cause overheating because it will diminish the transfer of heat from your home’s air, which means your system will have to work overtime to keep your home cool.
  • Old age mixed with hot weather. Old age on its own can cause an air conditioner to overheat because its parts will be inefficient and outdated. Overheating will happen even quicker in hot weather because the aging system won’t stand a chance against the high outdoor temperatures.
  • general lack of maintenance. Almost all of the issues above can be prevented by taking good care of your air conditioner throughout its lifetime. If you don’t change your filter monthly or schedule tune-ups annually, the likelihood of your system overheating will increase dramatically.

If you have any questions about your air conditioner overheating, or if you’d like a cooling system serviced or installed in your home, contact Jerry Kelly Heating & Air Conditioning, your St. Louis air conditioning contractor. We provide service all over the St. Louis area, including towns like Clayton, Cottleville, and Creve Coeur, MO.

photo credit: lungstruck via photopin (license)

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