If you're like most people, you probably only have a broad picture of your home's air conditioning system. Of course, most people know that the compressor is the most expensive component in the system and that it lives in the outdoor condenser housing. Unfortunately, this one piece of knowledge leads many people to believe that a noisy condenser means their whole system may be doomed.

Luckily, your condenser unit may make noise for a wide range of reasons, and they don't mean that your compressor is on its death's bed or that a new system is in your immediate future. However, it is critical to pay attention to these noises and address them before the problem gets worse.

What Makes Condenser Units Noisy?

There are several items in your condenser housing that make noise, and these noises can be routine or an indication of trouble. In general, there are five potential sources of noise:

  • Compressor motors
  • Condenser fan motors
  • Condenser fan blades
  • Electrical components
  • Refrigerant

When your system works normally, you'll usually hear the condenser fan moving a fairly significant volume of air along with the compressor motor. Even brand-new compressor motors are rarely silent, so it's not a cause for concern if you can hear yours. You'll typically hear the compressor the most as it gets up to speed right after starting.

Why is Your Condenser Getting Louder?

You only need to be concerned when your condenser starts making unusual or new noises or when it seems to be getting louder. The condenser fan is the most common failure point, especially on newer systems, and the one you'll most likely hear. You may hear a grinding or screeching if there's an internal problem with the fan motor or a more repetitive noise if there's a physical issue with the blades.

Electrical components are another common source of noise. For example, a faulty contactor may be arcing, creating a noticeable hum or buzzing. Failing capacitors can also produce a noise that may be audible over the other sounds your condenser unit makes, especially when the compressor and fan first turn on.

In general, you should only seriously worry about the compressor if you hear loud banging, clanking, or rattling sounds that don't seem to originate with the condenser housing. These sounds often indicate a more severe problem with the compressor.

What Should You Do?

The good news is that most of the problems listed above are repairable. However, these problems can cause additional strain and wear on your system if they go unaddressed. If your condenser starts making a strange noise, don't panic and assume your system is failing. Instead, contact a local HVAC service such as Above Par Heating & Air Conditioning, LLC to investigate, diagnose, and repair the problem.