How to Decide whether to Repair or Replace a Compressor

Commercial HVAC Unit, Graves Heating and Air, Rosa Media Productions

Commercial HVAC Unit Main Switch

Generally compressors are not the point of failure in a system. Many times the failure point is the electrical power and controls supporting the compressor. A compressor may not run, but doesn’t mean it is bad. It could also be burnt wires or a capacitor. These repairs are fairly inexpensive from the part point of view. The labor will be the expensive part of those repairs.

A compressor can be bad in 3 ways:

  1. The motor could be grounded or have open windings. It pops the circuit breaker instantly. The tech will need to check this with an ohmmeter.
  2. It could also be internal overload. This is a device that shuts down the compressor when it is running at high a temperature. This could indicate a low level of Freon or a dirty condenser. Not enough oil in the system can cause more friction, this could also result in an overheated compressor.
  3. A compressor could be a non-pumper – high suction, low discharge.

If a technician is telling you that your compressor is bad, you want to know exactly why. They need to do a pressure test. For instance:

If it is running 250/125 psi, that shows that something is mechanically broken inside the compressor.

If it is 300/20 psi, any tech should know that that is an expansion valve not a compressor.

Compressors get changed out all the time when the problem is not the compressor. It is some other aspect of the unit. Technicians really need to write down pressures if they are saying it’s a bad compressor, either not pumping or worn out.

If the compressor is still running, then you need a solid and specific diagnosis of the problem. If it is not running, then it has to be an open winding, its grounded, has a locked rotor, or it’s simply not bad. If it is not one of the above, it is probably a burnt wire or a capacitor, again, a much cheaper repair. A compressor not running has distinct causes, and the technician should be able to specify the problem in writing.

If your AC needs repair or service, please call us at 562-944-2118 to set up an appointment.

Let the Buyer Beware

Repair techs should clarify exactly what is wrong with your system before you move forward with repairs.

Repair techs should clarify exactly what is wrong with your system before you move forward with repairs.

Here are some consumer advocacy tips to help you keep from “being had”:

  1. How many flyers did you get last year for a $70 AC “routine” maintenance? That kind of deep discount offering is likely to be a fishing expedition for big ticket repairs. The fact is that it takes more than $70 to keep a typical AC repair truck and technician on the road for the amount of time it takes to do one-off “routine” maintenance calls. This is often the old bait and switch technique, so be careful.
  2. Expect your repair technician to specify the diagnosis of the problem before you spend any money for a repair. You can easily end up with a repair that is more than is necessary for the situation. Our technicians go out of their way to explain why a part is bad and to explain the repair needed.
  3. Don’t be afraid to slow down and get a second opinion.

If your AC needs repair or service, please call us at 562-944-2118 to set up an appointment.

4 Hot Tips on Thermostats

programmable thermostat

Thermostat technology has advanced greatly in recent years.

Thermostat technologies allow the home or business owner to optimize for comfort, efficiency, convenience, or some balance of the three.

Here are a few tips that relate to thermostats:

  1. Programmable thermostats allow you to keep the home at a temperature that is easier and quicker to cool than if you turn the system completely off while gone. Set your away time on your thermostat to the highest temperature you want to feel when you walk into your home.
  2. Thermostat technology has grown tremendously over the last few years. Units range from the old manual type, to units with daily, weekly, and weekend vs. weekday timers, to units that can be accessed and adjusted over the Internet while you’re away.
  3. Many brands are offering thermostats that you can control from a computer or mobile device while away from home. Be sure to buy one that is compatible with your system.
  4. When you are deciding on a new thermostat, consider how likely you are to actually set up and use advanced features before paying extra money for the latest and greatest technology.

Do you have a favorite thermostat tip? Please share in the comments below.

If your AC needs repair or service, please call us at 562-944-2118 to set up an appointment.

When to Buy a New AC Unit

Electrical cord strangling wallet

Time your AC replacement with a big repair need.

This advice is especially true for our older customers. You only want to buy one more unit in your life. The best way to only buy one more unit is to not buy it yet. Wait until you need a major repair like a compressor failure or a major freon leak. Don’t change it over a $200 or $300 repair. Change it over a $1,500 or $2,000 repair. The cost of that big repair can go into your new equipment.

We don’t recommend changing equipment just because it is old. Much of the old equipment was made from sturdier stuff than the newer equipment. What has been lost in strength has been gained in energy consumption. Today’s heating and cooling unit’s are much more efficient, but much more complex. All the “moving parts” like additional sensors, printed circuit boards, and the like make for more complex repairs.

Other factors to consider are: noise, environmental concerns, looks. You have to weigh in those factors into your decision. However, as a general rule, we do not recommend changing out equipment in lieu of relatively low cost repairs.

If your AC needs repair or service, please call us at 562-944-2118 to set up an appointment.

2 Signs that your AC Unit may be low on Freon

service and shut off valve on new AC condenser unit

Refrigerant is not consumed in the air conditioning process. If you suspect a leak, you should see if your technician can find it and repair it.

Refrigerant stays constant in your unit. It is not consumed during the air conditioning process. It only needs to be replaced when there is a leak in the system. Getting the ‘freon’ or refrigerant recharged in your system should not be a part of regular maintenance if your system is working properly. Two signs that your unit may be low on freon:

  1. You are not getting the 20 degrees difference between the supply and return air. See our tip on checking to see  if your system is functioning properly for more information on this.
  2. You see oil around the unit.


If you suspect that your unit requires a repair, don’t take a chance, give us a call at (562) 944-2118.

Important Reason NOT to Close AC Ducts for more Efficiency

AC vent

Closing too many AC vents can damage your compressor

Closing registers or supply vents is recommended by some as a way to save on energy costs. Unfortunately, this idea can actually backfire on homeowners if they close down too many vents.

AC systems are designed with a certain amount of air flow in mind. When a user closes vents, it reduces the amount of air flowing through the system. If too little air flows through the ducts and over the evaporator coil, the refrigerant fails to heat up and evaporate into its gas state properly. The amount of airflow is critical to boil the refrigerant from a liquid to a gas. It has to absorb enough heat out of the house in order to change into a gas.

If the refrigerant stays in liquid form and gets into the compressor, it can cause serious damage to the compressor. Replacing a compressor is usually an expensive repair.

Poor airflow can also result from a dirty filter. See our tip on changing your filter here.

If your AC needs repair or service, please call us at 562-944-2118 to set up an appointment.

6 Steps to Clean your AC Condenser

Clean your condenser annually. For most condensers this is simply a matter of hosing off the condenser unit. The units are a network of metal tubing and fins designed to dissipate the heat that your AC has removed from your house. You can usually find your condenser outside in the backyard. These units are designed to be out in the weather, but dirt collects in them. This cuts down on AC efficiency.

AC compressor

Clean your condenser annually to ensure better AC performance

To clean your condenser, follow the steps below:

  1. You will need a garden hose, a spray nozzle and a water source.
  2. Turn off electricity to the unit. The disconnect is sight of the unit.
  3. Do not disassemble the unit for cleaning.
  4. Spray the unit vigorously across all the fins but be careful not to spray directly on the motor.
  5. Look for large chunks of spider webs or leaves getting stuck and not coming out. Sometimes spraying water from another angle will break those up so they will wash away.
  6. The unit will dry itself.

This type of cleaning can be done by a trained professional, or you can have your installer or service technician show you how you can do this yourself. Always keep the area around the condenser free of debris so it will have proper airflow.

If your AC needs repair or service, please call us at 562-944-2118 to set up an appointment.

4 Steps to check if your AC unit is functioning properly


A difference of 20 degrees (F) between your supply and return vents shows proper function

Here are some simple steps to see if your air conditioning is working properly. You will need a thermometer.

  1. The AC unit should be operating for at least 5 minutes prior to testing.
  2. Measure the temperature at the return air vent. This is the place inside your house where the air returns to your AC unit. It is the large vent that sucks IN air, and is usually under the furnace or in a hallway.
  3. Next measure the temperature of the supply vent closest to your AC unit. This is the vent that is blowing air OUT.
  4. A temperature difference between the return air and the supply air of approximately 20 degrees indicates proper functioning for most AC units.

If you find that your system is not operating in this range, schedule a time for us to have a look at your system. (562) 944-2118.

Tip #3: How to Decide if You Need a More Efficient AC Unit

Heating and Air Unit

Timing an efficiency upgrade with a major repair helps recoup the cost of the upgrade more quickly.

People often ask me if they should get a new unit that is energy efficient. If your goal is to save money, it is best to do the math and see if this is cost effective.

  1. It depends on how much and how often you use your unit.
  2. Compare your winter bill usage to your summer bill usage. Look at the kilowatt usage, not just the dollar amount because summer charges are usually higher per kilowatt. Considering the difference between summer and winter usage, a more efficient unit will only save a percentage of this amount.
  3. Do the math and decide if the amount of money you will save is worth the cost of a new unit.
  4. Timing an efficiency upgrade with a major repair helps recoup the cost of the upgrade more quickly.

We’ll talk about some situations where it makes more sense to upgrade to a more efficient unit in a future tip.

If you need an HVAC maintenance contract on your commercial property, give us a call at (562) 944-2118.

Tip # 2 Check the Power

Circuit Breakers, Graves Heating and Air, Rosa Media Productions

Circuit Breakers

I know you will be rolling your eyes on this one. But you would be surprised at how many times we get called for a breakdown when the only problem is a tripped breaker. This simply means that the circuit no longer has power and needs to be reset by turning off the breaker and turning it back on. It is usually a double breaker marked AC.

Now, of course, if you have repeated experiences with the breaker tripping, you should probably have the system looked at by a professional.

If you suspect that your unit requires a repair, don’t take a chance, give us a call at (562) 944-2118.