Do You Replace the Contactor and Capacitor With a New Compressor
Replacing a compressor is expensive, time-consuming, and physically taxing. If we are replacing a compressor I want us to be doggone sure we aren’t going to be dealing with the same thing again and this often includes a shiny new contactor and capacitor (on single-phase units).
We received a comment recently that called out the fact that we replaced a capacitor with a compressor even though it tested in range.
The commenter felt this was a slimy attempt to tack on more expense rather than a goodwill attempt to prevent future issues.
It is a fair question to ask, “What is appropriate to do when replacing a compressor?”
Why Replace the Capacitor?
For me, installing a new, properly sized capacitor with a new single phase motor or compressor is always cheap insurance. When I do this will always use higher quality, American-made capacitors just to give the customer the best chance at going quite sometime before another issue. In our market, run capacitors are among the most common failures we see due to the long run times, high temperatures, and high voltage transient events like surges. We have much better luck with higher quality capacitors so we use them as a standard operating procedure.
This also goes for hard start kits, I will always remove any old aftermarket hard starts and go back with a factory start capacitor and potential relay where it is called for by the application. Whenever I say something like this I get a lot of folks who love aftermarket hard starts who question it. My explanation is HERE.
If you are working on other motor types such as self-contained refrigeration with a current relay I would say the same, go ahead and replace it rather than run the risk of another issue.
Why Replace the Contactor?
If a contactor is bright, shiny and brand new I’m probably not going to replace it. If it shows signs of wear it is a good practice to replace it with the compressor ESPECIALLY in three-phase units where single phasing can occur if one contact fails to connect.
This Tip from Emerson also confirms this policy as advised.
I recommend taking care of any contamination or burnout by using appropriate filter driers in both the liquid and suction lines and monitoring and/or replacing them depending on the application according to the recommendations by Emerson and Sporlan.
If the system contains an accumulator is advised to empty the old accumulator and measure the amount of oil it contains and its condition. I find it is often just easier to simply replace the accumulator rather than reinstalling especially if it has any signs of corrosion.
Take a close look at your pipework to make sure it is run properly without unnecessary oil traps, inverted traps at the coil where needed to prevent flooded starts, and good suction line insulation.
We also suggest using a virgin charge, cleaning the system condenser, evaporator, and condensate system, and making sure the proper airflow is present. It is also a good idea to make sure that all manufacturer-recommended accessories are installed especially if long lines are present. This could include things like a factory hard start, crankcase heater, pressure switches, or a liquid line solenoid.
Purge nitrogen, flow nitrogen while brazing, pull a proper vacuum, weigh in the charge and check everything… including suction temperature at the compressor and compressor discharge temperature to make sure it isn’t overheating.
All of this is in the service of the new compressor having a nice long life and the customer getting what they paid for… not as a way to drive up the invoice.
Bryan Orr is the CoFounder of Kalos Services Inc. a Multi-Discipline HVAC/R Contracting Company in Central Florida as well as the creator and founder of HVAC School podcast, YouTube and Website