A capacitor is a device comprising two metal conductors separated by an insulating material. On your air conditioner, a capacitor is like a huge cylindrical battery with two or three of three posts protruding.

The main purpose of a capacitor is to store electrons that provide start-up energy for the AC unit. They build up energy when electricity passes over them. In other words, capacitors store and release energy in the circuit when there’s a need to. However, there are several reasons why a capacitor might malfunction.


The electrolyte AC capacitor has a moist separator inside. If the unit gets too hot, the separator dries out making it develop an internal short circuit. Your capacitor can stop working if the temperatures frequently go above 150 degrees. Overheating can be caused by the sun or an AC that’s overworking.

Damaged or Worn-out Parts

A capacitor is supposed to disengage after every few seconds or else it will overheat. A fan motor or compressor that drags because of worn-out bearing or damage can cause a capacitor to burn up. A weak power surge or even lighting can also damage a capacitor. Central Aire Heating & A/C, Inc. has experienced technicians who can check your unit and determine whether the capacitor has been damaged or not.

Electrical Overload

Your AC capacitor is designed to disengage after getting the fan motors and compressor up to a certain amount of speed. It is not meant for continuous electrical overload. In case the motor is unable to automatically turn off, then the capacitor will overload and get destroyed.


Like everything else, capacitors have a specific lifespan. Most of them are designed to last for about 20 years. But there are several factors that can make them wear out much faster.

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