The air conditioning compressor is one of the most important parts of your AC. While all parts are needed for your AC to operate properly, your air conditioner won't work at all with a bad compressor. Plus, the compressor is one of the most expensive parts of your air conditioner.
However, an air conditioning compressor can go bad. When that happens, repairs might be possible, but it's also likely the compressor will need to be replaced. Here are some things to consider.
If Replacing Just The Compressor Is Worth It
You'll probably need an AC contractor to help you figure out if replacing just the compressor is a good way to spend your money or if you should replace the entire AC. The age of your air conditioner matters, because if you'll need to replace the entire AC in a year or two anyway, then you may not want to sink a lot of money into just buying a new compressor.
Another thing to consider is whether your AC is still new enough to be under warranty. If so, you might get help paying for a new compressor, and that could make replacing it worthwhile. The lowest cost is when your AC is still under warranty. The next lowest is just replacing the compressor. Replacing your entire AC costs a lot more, but there are still occasions when that might be a good idea.
If Something Caused The Compressor To Fail
An air conditioning compressor might go bad because parts inside it failed. However, a compressor may also go bad when other parts in the unit fail and cause the compressor to overheat or struggle to work properly. If there's a problem with your air conditioner, you want the contractor to find and repair it so your new compressor won't run into the same problem.
If You Can Replace The Compressor Yourself
While you might have the technical skills needed to replace the compressor yourself, there are reasons you should hire a professional to do the work. It can be dangerous to work inside an air conditioner due to the risk of shock even with the power off.
Replacing the compressor involves removing the refrigerant to release pressure and then filling the refrigerant back up when the new compressor is in place. Laws require you to be a licensed professional to purchase and handle refrigerant, so this is a task you're not allowed to do as a homeowner. You'll need to hire an AC contractor to at least deal with the refrigerant.
You may also want the contractor to select the right replacement compressor so you're sure to get the right one. Since they'll already be on-site, you may as well let them exchange the compressor since that alone is a fairly easy task.
Contact an HVAC technician if you have questions about replacing your air conditioning compressor.