Extra Edition / Technical

Compressor Reliability

February 7, 2004
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Norm Christopherson
The heart of both an electric refrigerator and an air conditioner is the compressor, its most costly component. No other electromechanical device comes close to the reliability of the semi-hermetic or fully hermetic compressor.

Consider the following comparison.

  • On average, the compressor operates in a refrigerator at full speed almost half the time. That is about 4,000 hours out of 8,760 hours in a year.

  • In 15 years, that would be 60,000 hours.

  • If your automobile operated 60,000 hours at only 50 miles per hour that would be 3 million miles!

  • That is 120 trips around the world at the equator, or 6 round trips to the moon.

  • The compressor does this without a valve job, new points, new plugs, or even an oil change.

  • Unless the compressor has a problem, neither lubricating oil nor refrigerant are added over the 15, 20, or even 30 years that many compressors operate.

  • Search your mind. Can you think of any other electromechanical device with a comparable record of reliability and operating life?

  • The next time someone says that they don't make things to last as long as they used to, consider the compressor.

  • The majority of compressor failures are not due to the compressor, but rather to a system problem that caused the compressor to fail. It is important to determine the cause of a compressor failure when replacing a defective compressor or the replacement compressor is bound to fail as well. Don't be too quick to blame a failed compressor on the compressor itself.

  • Learn the causes of compressor failures and make it a habit to check the system for the potential cause of a compressor failure.

    Norm Christopherson is a technical writer, seminar presenter, and former HVACR instructor. He is currently seeking training opportunities. He can be contacted at nchristo@juno.com.

    Publication date: 02/09/2004

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