What Does The Fan On An Outdoor AC Unit Do And What Should You Do If It Stops Spinning?

Posted on: 28 June 2022

If you've noticed that the fan in your outdoor AC unit has stopped running, you'll need to have it fixed before you can use your AC again. The fan in the outdoor unit is called the condenser fan, and it keeps the compressor in the outdoor unit cool.

Your air conditioner will still continue to cool your home when the condenser fan isn't spinning, but it's more likely to become severely damaged. Without the condenser fan working properly, the compressor is more likely to overheat and fail. Compressors are expensive to replace, so it's important to have your condenser fan fixed before the compressor is damaged by heat. To learn more about what a condenser fan does and what can cause them to stop spinning, read on.

What Does a Condenser Fan Do?

First, you'll need to know about how an AC unit works. Your air conditioner works by allowing the refrigerant in the coils to expand into a gas, which rapidly cools it down. A fan inside your home blows air over the refrigerant in the coils, which circulates cool air around your home. Refrigerant goes through the coils back to the compressor, which pushes down into the gaseous refrigerant to turn it into a liquid. Once in liquid form, it returns to your home and expands into a gas again, cooling your home.

Compressing the refrigerant into a liquid generates heat, and the condenser fan above the compressor moves heat away from your outdoor AC unit in order to cool down the compressor. When the fan isn't working and outside temperatures are high, the compressor will overheat and cause your air conditioner to automatically shut down due to high temperatures. Repeatedly causing your compressor to shut off through overheating will damage it.

What Can Cause a Condenser Fan to Stop Spinning?

One problem that can cause your condenser fan to stop spinning is a seized bearing. The condenser fan is connected to a motor by a lubricated bearing, and it can heat up rapidly due to friction if the lubricant wears away. The heat causes it to warp, which makes it unable to turn the fan blades. Dust buildup inside the motor can also cause the bearing to seize.

Your fan will also stop spinning if the start capacitor fails. The condenser fan motor requires more electricity to spin up the fan than it does to keep it running. The start capacitor holds a charge that provides this extra energy to the motor when your air conditioner starts up. Start capacitors are prone to bursting after many charge and discharge cycles, which causes them to no longer hold the required charge.

Finally, the condenser fan motor may be worn out. If you have an older AC unit, the electrical components inside the motor may be damaged due to age, and you'll need to have the motor replaced in order to power your condenser fan again.

What Should You Do if Your Condenser Fan Isn't Working?

If your condenser fan isn't working, shut off your air conditioner and call an AC repair service as soon as you can. Working with the condenser fan yourself can be dangerous — the fan blades are very sharp — and the start capacitor holds a large amount of electricity even when the AC unit is disconnected from its power source. Repairing your condenser motor is a task best handled by professionals.

Thankfully, having your condenser fan repaired is typically inexpensive — capacitors and condenser fan motors are easy for an experienced AC repair service to replace and the components don't cost very much. Continuing to run your AC without having it fixed can lead to damage that's more expensive to repair — you risk your compressor being damaged by repeated overheating, and replacing a failed compressor is much more expensive than replacing a condenser fan.

For more information on AC repair, contact an HVAC company such as Heaney Plumbing & Heating.


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