Fixing your own Air Conditioner

This summer our air conditioner simply stopped turning on.  We were able to fix it with a $35 part on Amazon, which certainly beat the $275 charge that the repair company quoted us AND we would have to wait two weeks for them to come out.  Chances are if your air conditioner goes out, it’s summer time and a lot of other people’s air conditioners stopped working too.

If your air conditioner turns on, but doesn’t cool your house down it may be at the end of its expected life.  But if it suddenly stops turning on, it may be an easy fix.  The capacitor may have gone out.  The capacitor stores a big charge and gives the AC unit a lot of juice to get started.  After so many starts the capacitor gets old and can stop working.  Here is a photo of a brand new capacitor.  Notice the flat top?  That means it’s healthy.  An old capacitor will have a curved and bubbling top.


Here is my step by step adventure in fixing my air conditioner.

Step 1:  Turn off the power

Make sure to shut off the circuit breaker to the air conditioner.  If your breakers are not labeled or you don’t trust the labels, then turn off the master switch.  The AC doesn’t run off of a wall socket, it uses a lot of juice.  Juice you don’t want:)  Second, there should be a box connected to your AC, which has a more localized circuit.  On my AC, I simply pulled the top part towards me and it came out.

Step 2:  Remove the metal panel that all of the cords are going into.  



Step 3:  Evaluate the existing Capacitor.  

The capacitor is the big metal cylinder.  The top should be flat, like a can of coke.  You can see the capacitor in the picture has a rounded / bubbling top.  Before removing the three cables above it, write down which cable goes where.  It should be labeled C, Herm, and something else, I’d love to tell you but I don’t want to open up my AC unit again:)  Write down which color cable is connected to each labeled prong on the capacitor.  In addition, the capacitor has some important numbers, which will help you buy your new one on Amazon.  The numbers on mine said, “440VAC 50-60Hz”, but yours may be different.  Now after you receive it in the mail and making sure the power is off, you can now remove the wires connected to the top of the capacitor.  Install the new capacitor and plug the wires into the same labels they were in before.  And now put the protective cover back on.  

Step 4:  Admire the new capacitor

Oh, and don’t forget to turn the power back on.  You just saved 300 bucks and now have a new skill!

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