What are Air Conditioning Relays and What Do They Do?

On a typically balmy Sarasota day, you’re glad to have your air conditioning system in top shape. But even the smallest of components can bring that cooling to an uncomfortable halt if it fails. Relays are one such component tasked with keeping your AC system humming along. Learn how air conditioning relays work inside your system, what happens if they stop working and what you can do to get your AC system back on track.

Small Switches with a Big Task

Relays are switches used to open and close electrical circuits inside of a device. In essence, relays help regulate the flow of electricity through electrical components. When energized, the relay makes a connection with one or more contacts within. De-energizing the relay breaks those contacts, thereby disrupting the flow of electricity through the circuit.

Take a look at any electronic device and chances are it’ll have one or more relays inside. There are many types of relays, but most are electromechanical, meaning they rely on a combination of electromagnet and mechanically movable contacts to work.

How Air Conditioning Relays Work

Think of air conditioning relays as traffic signals for the electricity flowing through your AC system. When you want your AC system to start, for instance, the air conditioning relay for your compressor opens a circuit and allows current to flow through that component. When it’s time for the compressor to stop running, the relay cuts off power to the compressor by closing the circuit.

Your compressor isn’t the only AC component that’ll have a relay. On most models, the blower fan is also controlled by a relay.

What Happens When Relays Fail

Relays seem to last forever – right up to the moment when they suddenly fail. The electrical contacts can wear down after years of constant use. Relays can also overheat, especially if too much electricity flows through the relay due to a problem with another AC component. It’s not unusual for a faulty part to cause a relay to burn out or even melt its plastic housing.

No matter how happens to your relay, a failure could spell an unexpected “time-out” for your air conditioner. In some cases, your AC system may still function, but not at peak performance.

Bad air conditioning relays can come with their own set of symptoms. As a result, you might run into one or more of the following issues:

  • AC compressor does not start
  • Poor or non-existent cooling
  • Excessive heat from relay
  • Burnt or acrid odors
  • Rattling noise from relay

Relay Trouble? Call the Experts

Replacing an air conditioning relay isn’t a DIY job, in most cases. You’ll need a seasoned expert who can quickly and properly diagnose your AC issue. Our air conditioning repair specialists can take care of your relay problems and put your AC system back to work. Call us today at 941-371-3355 or reach us online to request an estimate or make an appointment.

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