5 Reasons Why Air Conditioner Compressor Not Turning On

Last Updated on April 9, 2023 by Kimberly Crawford

Having a properly functioning air conditioner is essential to maintaining the comfort of your home or workplace. An air conditioner has many working parts, and one of the most important ones is the compressor.

The compressor’s job is to regulate the flow of refrigerant in the system, which helps keep it running efficiently. If your air conditioner’s compressor isn’t turning on, then it could be for a variety of reasons.

In this guide, we will cover the definition of an air conditioner compressor, the importance of a properly functioning compressor, and provide an overview of why your unit’s compressor might not be turning on.

With this information, you can begin troubleshooting the issue and hopefully, get your air conditioner up and running in no time.

Let’s begin by defining what an air conditioner compressor is and its importance to the system.

What is an air conditioner compressor?

The compressor is a key component of your air conditioner’s refrigeration cycle. It is responsible for taking the low-pressure gas from the evaporator and compressing it into a high-pressure gas, which then flows to the condenser.

This process helps regulate the refrigerant flow throughout the system, allowing it to absorb and release heat properly. Without a working compressor, your air conditioner will not be able to cool the air in your home or office efficiently.

Why is a properly functioning compressor so important?

A properly functioning compressor is essential for an efficient and effective cooling system. If the compressor isn’t working, it can cause the entire unit to overheat, which can lead to a number of other problems.

Additionally, if the compressor isn’t working correctly, it may cause the unit to cycle too frequently or take too long to cool down the room. This could lead to higher energy bills due to an inefficient system.

Reasons Why Air Conditioner Compressor Not Turning On

air conditioning compressor

1. Circuit Breakers and Electrical Issues

Identifying Tripped Circuit Breakers

Before attempting to reset a tripped circuit breaker, be sure to check the power supply panel for indications of an interruption in service or a power outage. Carefully inspect each circuit on the panel and identify any that have been tripped by noting the switch in the “off” position.

If there is no apparent indication of a power disruption, you may need to call an electrician to inspect and check the wiring of the panel and its connection to the main power source.

Solutions for Resetting Breakers and Checking Wiring

Once you have identified any tripped circuit breakers, reset them by switching the breaker back to the “on” position.

If the breaker trips again, you may need to check for any wiring faults or faulty connections in your electrical system.

Once these have been corrected and the circuit is operational, it should remain stable without tripping again.

2. Damaged Power Cords and Connections

Inspecting Power Cords for Wear and Tear

It’s important to inspect the power cord of your air conditioner compressor regularly for any signs of wear and tear, such as fraying or cracks in the insulation.

If you notice any damage, replace the power cord immediately before attempting to use the compressor again.

Ensuring Secure Connections and Replacing Cords if Necessary

Once you have replaced the power cord, double check all connections to ensure they are secure and not likely to break or become loose during operation.

If any of the connections appear worn or damaged, replace them before continuing use. Additionally, be sure that your air conditioner compressor is plugged into a grounded, three-prong outlet in order to prevent any electrical shocks.

3. Dead Compressor

Signs of a dead compressor

When your air conditioner compressor is not turning on, you may experience some of the following signs: inability to start, unusual noise or vibration, and in extreme cases burning smells coming from the unit.

If one or more of these symptoms occur, it may be an indication that your compressor has died.

Potential causes of compressor failure

The most common cause of a dead compressor is age of the unit, as air conditioners usually last around 10 to 15 years.

Lack of regular maintenance and refrigerant leaks may also be contributing factors in the eventual breakdown of your compressor.

It’s important to have your air conditioner serviced regularly by a trained professional to ensure it’s working properly and any potential problems are addressed.

Assessing the need for compressor replacement and contacting a professional

If you think that your compressor is not functioning correctly, it’s important to contact a licensed HVAC technician as soon as possible in order to assess the situation and determine if a replacement is necessary.

A technician can also provide advice on how to prevent future breakdowns and recommend any additional maintenance or repair services that may be needed. They will be able to properly diagnose the issue and advise you as to the best course of action for your air conditioner.

With a professional assessment, you can rest assured knowing your air conditioner is in the best possible hands. This will ensure your air conditioning unit is running properly and efficiently, reducing any potential disruption to you and your family’s comfort.

Furthermore, a professional assessment can help to reduce future repair costs by ensuring regular maintenance and addressing any issues as soon as they arise.

4. Dirty Filter and Its Impact

dirty air filter air conditioner

The significance of clean filters

1. Improve airflow: Clean air filters help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your HVAC system by allowing enough airflow to pass through the filters into the compressor for proper cooling. Without enough air flow, your air conditioner is unable to cool properly and you may experience longer run times, higher energy bills, and decreased performance.

2. Maintain proper temperature: Clean air filters also help maintain the desired temperature in your home or office by allowing enough airflow to pass through for cooling or heating purposes. Dirty air filters reduce air flow and can cause the compressor to work harder, leading to higher energy bills and a less efficient system overall.

Identifying a dirty filter

1. Visual inspection: If your air filters look visibly dirty, it is likely that they need to be replaced or cleaned. Check the filters regularly, especially when running your air conditioner for an extended period of time.

2. Decreased performance: Another indication that you have a dirty filter is if you experience decreased performance from your air conditioner. If the compressor works harder than usual, or takes longer to cool down a room, then it may be time for new filters.

How to clean or replace an air filter

1. Replacing the filter: The best and safest way to ensure that your HVAC system is running effectively with your air conditioner compressor is to replace the filters every 1-3 months. Inspect the filter for dirt, dust and debris, and if it looks dirty, then it’s time for a new one.

2. Cleaning the filter: If you are able to clean your filter instead of replacing it, then you can do so by taking it off the unit and gently washing it with warm water. Be sure to allow the filter to completely dry before reinstalling it back into the AC unit. It is also important to note that some air filters are not able to be cleaned and must be replaced after a certain amount of time. If you are unsure what type of filter you have, it is best to consult the manufacturer.

5. Dirty Condenser Coil

A condenser coil, or outdoor unit of an air conditioner, is responsible for releasing the heat from your home. It does this by passing refrigerant through the evaporator and condenser coils to cool it down before pumping it back into the house.

When a condenser coil becomes dirty with debris such as leaves, grass clippings, or dirt, it can reduce the efficiency of your system and cause compressor issues.

If you suspect that a dirty condenser coil is causing your air conditioner’s compressor to not turn on, follow these steps for cleaning it:

1. Turn off the power to the system before beginning any work. This is important both for your safety and to prevent damage to the system.

2. Gently remove any debris from the condenser coil with a soft brush or cloth. Be careful not to damage the coils by using anything sharp or abrasive.

3. Use a commercial coil cleaning solution to help loosen dirt and grime that may be caked on the coils. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using any cleaning product.

Once you have completed these steps, turn the power back on and test your air conditioner’s compressor to see if it is functioning properly. If not, contact a professional technician for further assessment and repair.

6. Inadequate Refrigerant Levels

Importance of Refrigerant in Air Conditioning

Refrigerant is the liquid that flows through your air conditioner’s coils and evaporator, absorbing heat from inside the home and then releasing it outside.

This allows your air conditioner to cool indoor air. Without an adequate level of refrigerant, your air conditioner will not cool your home efficiently.

Causes of Low Refrigerant Levels

There are several potential causes of low refrigerant levels in an air conditioner, including: leaks in the refrigerant lines, improper installation, and insufficient refrigerant charge during maintenance.

Leaks can occur from normal wear and tear over time or from impact damage. Improper installation can cause the system to be undersized, resulting in inadequate refrigerant levels for the space being cooled.

Insufficient charge during maintenance means that not enough refrigerant was added to the system when it was serviced.

Detecting Low Refrigerant Levels

Low refrigerant levels can be detected by signs such as ice buildup on the coils, or varying room temperatures.

If you suspect your air conditioner may have a low refrigerant level, it is important to contact an HVAC professional to assess the issue and make any necessary repairs or adjustments.

Hiring a Professional for Refrigerant-Related Issues

When dealing with refrigerant levels, it is important to hire a qualified, licensed HVAC technician. They will be able to accurately assess the problem and make any necessary repairs or adjustments in order to restore your air conditioner’s efficiency.

If a technician finds that there is an issue with the refrigerant level, they can add more to bring it back up to the recommended level.

In some cases, they may need to repair or replace any damaged components as well. After the issue has been addressed, the technician will be able to provide advice on how to prevent similar issues in the future.


Is there a reset button on an air conditioner compressor?

Yes, there is a reset button on an air conditioner compressor. It is usually located near the power cord of the unit and may be labeled “RESET” or just have a red switch. If your air conditioner isn’t turning on, you can try pressing this reset button before calling for service. Make sure to unplug the unit before pressing this button.

How do you reset an AC compressor?

If your AC compressor isn’t turning on, you may need to reset it. Resetting an air conditioner compressor can help restore normal operation and get the cooling system running again. To reset an AC compressor, you’ll first want to turn off the unit’s power, wait a few minutes, then turn it back on.

If that doesn’t work, you may need to check the system’s fuse or circuit breaker and replace it if necessary. You can also reset the compressor by pressing the “reset” button located on the side of the unit.

Finally, some compressors have a safety switch that needs to be reset manually. If your AC compressor has this feature, simply press down on the switch to reset it.

Following these steps should help reset your AC compressor and get your cooling system running again. If you’re still having issues, however, it may be best to contact a professional for further assistance.


In conclusion, troubleshooting and regular maintenance are essential for ensuring that your air conditioner compressor is functioning properly. If it stops working, it’s important to assess whether repairing or replacing the compressor is the best option. By proactively maintaining your system, you can increase its durability and longevity. Doing so will help you save time and money in the long run.

Thank you for reading, and we hope this guide has been helpful. If you need further assistance with your air conditioner compressor, be sure to consult a professional. They can help diagnose the problem and provide an effective repair solution quickly and safely. Good luck!