When your air conditioner begins to make noises, this can often be the first sign of mechanical problems. Squeaking is one common sound that you might hear, and while some noises can help pinpoint where the problem is coming from, there’s more than one reason that an air conditioner might make this particular sound. So, if you have an AC unit that is currently squeaking, here are some possible reasons for it and why you shouldn’t leave it unresolved for too long.
A Faulty Compressor
The most common reason for squeaking in most AC units is a faulty compressor. The compressor is one of the most important parts of an air conditioner because it’s the part that delivers the refrigerant throughout the unit, and that’s what cools the air in a room.
A compressor can start squeaking for many reasons. It might only occur when you initially turn your air conditioner on, or it may last the entire time that the AC is running. Two parts associated with the compressor, the compressor clutch and the compressor pulley, are often the cause when the compressor is at fault.
In addition to making a squeaking or squealing sound, if the compressor clutch is having problems, you may notice that the AC is not cooling the air as it should. Because this part is constantly turning on and off throughout the day to move refrigerant around within the unit, it’s prone to wear and tear and is known to sometimes break down.
Even more likely to suffer from constant use is the compressor pulley, which constantly moves while the AC unit is turned on and can also make high-pitched squeaking, screeching, or squealing noises when it becomes dysfunctional. If your compressor fails, this can affect many other parts within the unit, so it should be repaired or replaced as soon as possible to avoid further damage.
A Damaged Condenser Fan
In many cases, where there’s squeaking, the condenser fan is often the culprit. Because this fan has many associated parts, the sound can be coming from anywhere within the unit, such as the fan belt, the fan motor, or the fan itself.
When it’s the fan belt, it may be worn down or simply loose, and when this is the case, a replacement belt or simple adjustment will do. However, newer AC units normally have no belts and use direct-drive motors instead. If the motor is to blame, there may be a problem with the bearings where they either need a bit of lubrication or have seriously worn down over time.
Then, there’s the fan itself, which can often squeak and make other sounds if it’s become clogged with dust. If it’s an outside unit, twigs or other types of debris can end up lodged between the fan blades, and this alone can cause squeaking. Otherwise, the blades themselves can become bent and produce noises.
Worn Isolation Feet
In large units, compressors normally sit on rubber pads known as isolation feet. The point of these pads is to reduce vibrations, stabilize the compressor, and reduce noise. So, whenever isolation feet become worn down or are missing, this can lead to an unstable unit that has not only lost its anti-vibration padding but may also be sitting unevenly.
All of this can cause noises like buzzing, rattling, and certainly squeaking. If one piece of padding begins to wear down, it’s not uncommon to see the others wear down even faster as they then take on more weight to compensate for the loss of support on one side.
In many cases, you may need to replace all of the pads, but this may not always fix the issue if the unit has been rattling and vibrating for a long time. When this happens, it can cause issues with the compressor or other parts if the vibrations were severe enough or ignored for long periods.
High Humidity Levels
Sometimes, an AC unit may be squeaking because it’s working overtime to cool air, and if this is happening, the fix may simply be to dehumidify a room. Keep in mind that your AC unit is not just pushing out cold air but is also actively cooling the hot or muggy air inside the unit.
Because humidity is essentially moisture, your air conditioner has to remove this moisture during the cooling process, which forces the unit to work harder as it’s doing both jobs of cooling the air and removing moisture. With all this extra work, an AC unit may strain and struggle, which can cause squeaking in any of its parts. Although these parts may not be faulty yet, they can all break down over time if the humidity issue is not dealt with. For all of these reasons, it’s important that the humidity is reduced to safe levels while the parts are checked for any damage that may lead to further problems later.
A Failing Capacitor
Although a faulty capacitor is normally associated with a buzzing or clicking noise, it can sometimes present as a squeaking noise as well. The capacitor’s job is to send electricity to your air conditioner’s motors in large jolts that a typical electrical outlet in your home is unable to provide.
Cold weather, electrical problems, and other issues can affect a capacitor, at which point it may begin to make noises as it struggles to turn on. Our technicians McGowan's Heating & Air Conditioning can test your capacitor to make sure that it’s providing the right amount of voltage and resistance, but once it begins to make noises, it may need to be replaced.
While refrigerant leaks normally produce a whistling or hissing sound, they may sound like squeaking in some scenarios. To cool air, refrigerant is dispersed throughout the evaporator coil, which may be made of either aluminum or copper.
Aluminum coils are much less prone to leaks and are being used more frequently in newer air conditioner units these days. Copper coils, on the other hand, are known for being vulnerable to leaks because they can crack or develop signs of wear and tear over time.
Small pinhole-sized leaks can occur where refrigerant begins to seep out. Because these holes are extremely tiny, squeaking noises are not uncommon and may be the first signs of a refrigerant leak.
Contact the Professionals
If you’re hearing noises coming from your air conditioner, it’s important that you have these checked out immediately as they can often lead to serious damage to a unit. At McGowan's Heating & Air Conditioning, we’ve been serving our local Jacksonville and Northeast Florida communities for over 45 years. Our team provides AC diagnostics and repair services, as well as AC installation and maintenance. We also repair, install, and maintain heating systems. If you’re building a new home, you can turn to us for new construction HVAC services. Our other services include indoor air quality, attic insulation, and commercial HVAC.
Our highly skilled technicians have the knowledge and experience to identify the source of squeaking noises while quickly resolving the issue for you, so call us at McGowan's Heating & Air Conditioning today to schedule a technician to visit your home at your convenience.