- Typical Range: $60 to $300
- National Average: $170
An air conditioning (AC) unit has multiple functioning parts. When one starts to fail, it can trigger a domino effect that, if ignored long enough, can lead to the entire unit needing to be replaced. For homeowners, one AC component to be aware of is the capacitor. Capacitors are large cylindrical batteries that provide an electrical jump-start to an AC unit when it’s turned on. Capacitors are important components of every AC unit, with most units housing more than one type. Unfortunately, all types of AC capacitors will wear out over time and may need to be replaced. According to Angi and HomeAdvisor, the average replacement AC capacitor cost is $170, but homeowners may pay as little as $60 or as much as $300 to get their AC units back into tip-top shape. Multiple factors affect the cost, including unit type, labor, and even the time of year a replacement capacitor is installed.
What Is an AC Capacitor?
An AC capacitor is an essential piece within a cooling unit. This small cylindrical component stores energy, like a short-term battery. When an AC unit is turned on, it needs a bit more electrical juice than a home’s circuit board can safely handle. The AC capacitor makes up the difference and sends a jolt of electrical signals to power up the unit’s motor. In fact, AC units have multiple types of capacitors. The one that starts the unit seems to get all the attention, but there are multiple supportive capacitors that keep a unit going while it operates. Unfortunately, an AC unit can’t function efficiently when one or more capacitors start to break down, either due to harsh elements, poor maintenance, or age. If an AC capacitor isn’t repaired quickly, it will continue to deteriorate until it needs to be replaced.
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Factors in Calculating AC Capacitor Cost
Replacing an AC capacitor has an average price tag of $170. But a variety of factors can push the price to as high as $300 or as low as $60. These factors include the unit type, cost of labor, and even geographic location (local averages can be different than national averages). Below are some of the factors that determine the price of an AC capacitor.
AC Unit Type
With multiple brands and manufacturers of AC units, the specific make and model affects AC capacitor replacement costs. Large units require larger capacitors, which are more likely to come with a higher price tag. Obtaining parts for outdated models can raise the replacement cost, and different AC designs can be an influencing factor as well. Units with easy-to-access capacitors won’t require the same number of labor hours that a more intricate design will call for.
Homeowners can expect labor to make up the bulk of their AC capacitor replacement cost. Capacitors are fairly affordable, averaging between $9 and $45. Even though replacement can be quick (as fast as 30 minutes in ideal conditions), the necessary knowledge and skill required to safely complete the job means contractors can charge a higher labor fee. While it may seem like a large financial pill to swallow, the peace of mind that comes with a job well done can be worth the added cost to a homeowner who doesn’t have this specific kind of expertise.
A home’s geographic location also affects the cost of an AC capacitor replacement. In highly populated areas, like cities, the average cost of living is higher. This equates to HVAC contractors charging more for their services. However, in more rural areas, labor costs can be lower.
Additional Costs and Considerations
Homeowners can be caught off guard at the cost of replacing an AC capacitor. This is mostly due to miscommunication about how the replacement costs are broken down. Here are some additional factors that can impact an AC capacitor replacement quote.
Replacement vs. Repair
The cost difference between replacing and repairing a capacitor isn’t much, and the state of the capacitor typically makes the decision on whether a repair or a replacement takes place. But when an AC capacitor is showing signs of wear and tear, it’s likely that other components within the unit are starting to break down as well.
In some cases, it can make more financial sense to absorb a higher AC replacement cost rather than the cost of a broken capacitor. But if the rest of the unit receives a clean bill of health from an HVAC expert, it’s certainly more affordable to replace the capacitor instead of considering a “cost to replace ac unit” quote from a contractor.
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A part or service warranty can affect the cost of an AC capacitor replacement. Warranties can be available directly from the part manufacturer or through an HVAC contractor. Because a capacitor is an affordable part, the absence of a warranty doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. However, a warranty or guarantee from a service provider can provide real value and peace of mind.
AC units may also come with a manufacturer’s warranty if they are on the newer side, so homeowners can check to see whether the AC capacitor replacement is covered by that warranty. Newer homeowners may also have a home warranty that covers the AC unit. In this case, it’s important to check to see whether AC capacitor replacement is covered, as it may be cheaper to make a claim under a home warranty than to pay for a professional to replace the part.
During the summer months, when the weather is hotter and more homeowners are using their AC units, HVAC companies are in high demand. This equates to premium pricing. Both maintenance and repairs tend to cost more during the high-demand months of the year. Having an AC unit checked before demand increases can catch problems early and potentially reduce replacement costs, if repairs are necessary.
A capacitor that isn’t quickly repaired or replaced can cause other parts within an AC unit to begin to fail. Motors can begin to burn out, making the unit less efficient. Eventually, it won’t be able to produce cool air at all. Noticing an AC capacitor in need of replacement as quickly as possible can reduce the likelihood of additional repairs (and a higher price tag).
For example, a damaged AC compressor can cost as much as $250 to repair and as much as $2,800 to replace. A gas leakage can run as much as $1,500 to repair. Thermostat replacements can cost as much as $250, while a fan coil can cost an astounding $2,000. Signs of a failing capacitor aren’t always obvious, which is why annual HVAC maintenance checks shouldn’t be skipped.
Types of AC Capacitors
An AC unit likely contains multiple types of capacitors, each with its own unique workload. Knowing the difference is crucial when a specific capacitor needs to be replaced within a unit. Learn the specifics of each capacitor type below.
A run capacitor keeps a unit operating for the entire length of a cooling cycle. While other types of capacitors help to power up a unit or operate a fan, run capacitors power energy for longer spans and can be found in most modern homes or when older homes have central air conditioning installed for the first time.
Single-stage capacitors have two terminals and work to power a single motor. A single-stage run capacitor can cost between $8 and $30, making them an extremely affordable capacitor for AC units to replace if necessary. But for larger homes or oversize AC units, a single-stage run capacitor may not be enough to power the AC unit correctly.
Dual-run capacitors are ideal for large HVAC systems. With three terminals, they can power two electrical motors. Because they’re larger in size and power, they also have a larger price tag. When replacing a dual-run capacitor, homeowners can expect to pay between $15 and $45.
A start capacitor stores energy until a cooling cycle begins. A home’s electrical system can’t always provide enough electricity to power up an AC unit, so a start capacitor provides enough extra energy, then turns off once the home’s electrical grid can power the motor on its own. This is a common AC capacitor to replace and typically runs between $9 and $25.
Furnaces have blower motors that direct hot air throughout a home’s duct system. It also requires a capacitor to operate efficiently. The same motor also pushes cool air throughout a home from the AC unit. This means a blower capacitor is working year-round and may start to wear down faster than other types of capacitors. If an AC unit’s fan isn’t working, a blower capacitor could be the issue. A new blower capacitor costs between $9 and $12 plus the cost of labor to replace.
Heat Pump Capacitor
Heat pumps transfer thermal energy from the outside in, but they can also operate as an air conditioner. Just like a traditional air conditioner unit, a heat pump needs a bit more energy to start up and stay operational. A heat pump capacitor costs between $15 and $25 on average.
A heat pump capacitor can be described as a combination of two different types of capacitors. Heat pump capacitors function similarly to all other types of capacitors and help jump-start the motor inside the heat pump. Both a start capacitor and a run capacitor are fitted in a heat pump. This means that a heat pump capacitor helps the unit both initially start and continue to run for the entire cooling cycle.
Do I Need to Replace My AC Capacitor?
The good news is that AC capacitors have a long lifespan. The bad news is that all capacitors will begin to show wear and tear with age. Here are the most common signs that alert homeowners when their AC capacitor needs to be replaced.
Clicking or Humming Noise
An AC capacitor that’s struggling to do its job may make a clicking or humming noise while operating. This can be tricky, though, because a homeowner may only notice these noises if they’re near the unit when it’s turned on. The other issue is that other components within an AC unit can make similar noises when they start to break down. It can also be difficult to tell from just a click or a hum which capacitor within a unit may be struggling. While humming or clicking are both signals homeowners should be aware of, an HVAC professional should make the final diagnosis.
Burning Smell or Smoke
A tell-tale sign of any type of failing motor component is a burning smell or, in very serious scenarios, smoke. Because an AC unit is outside, it can be difficult to notice either signal from inside. Homeowners only tend to notice burning or smoke when they head out to inspect a unit after their home fails to cool down.
A burning smell suggests that the coated wires within the unit are being overcome with heat. A capacitor holds plenty of electrical energy, even when it’s failing. If it can’t deliver that energy to where it needs to go, a fire hazard can quickly develop. If a burning smell coming from an AC unit is getting stronger or smoke is actively escaping the unit, homeowners should immediately call 911 to prevent a serious disaster.
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Blowing Warm Air
One of the biggest signs that would prompt a homeowner to check out their capacitor is when their AC unit isn’t blowing cool air. Instead, only warm air is blowing into their home. This is incredibly obvious on hotter days when even a properly functioning AC unit might struggle to keep a home cool under the direct beating of the hot sun.
In hot and harsh elements, an AC unit with a failing capacitor simply can’t keep up. But if the blower fan is still functional, warm air blows throughout the home instead of cool air. If this happens, the homeowner should call an HVAC professional immediately. While not having air conditioning can be uncomfortable, extreme heat can make it dangerous. Getting a contractor out as soon as possible is important.
An AC unit should kick on effortlessly. It’s normal to hear or even feel an air conditioner starting, depending on its placement against the house. However, it shouldn’t sound like it’s straining or struggling. If it seems like the unit is attempting to start but can’t leave the starting line, a failing capacitor could be to blame. But just like a few other signs that an AC capacitor needs to be replaced, there could be another culprit to blame. Homeowners should work with a professional to avoid a dangerous (and potentially expensive) guessing game.
Increased Energy Bills
Homeowners expect their energy bills to increase during the warmer months, especially if they run their AC unit around the clock. But an alarming increase can signal an issue with the unit. One such issue could be a failing AC capacitor. Just like a high water bill can signal a small leak somewhere, a high electricity bill could mean a capacitor is struggling to hold its charge and is constantly producing more to store. Reaching out to the electric company can help solve the mystery of a higher energy bill. Homeowners can ask for daily breakdowns of kilowatt usage to see if there’s a trend between days when the AC was run and days when it wasn’t. A slight upcharge is normal, but a significant difference could be a sign of a failing capacitor.
Capacitors that are past the ability to be repaired take on a bulging appearance. Capacitors are cylinder shaped and normally sleek in appearance. A failing capacitor looks overstuffed and typically has visual bulges at the sides. Once a capacitor bulges, it cannot be repaired and will more than likely need to be fully replaced.
AC Capacitor Replacement: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
Replacing an AC capacitor DIY-style can certainly be the more affordable option. If homeowners decide to tackle the replacement themselves, they’ll eliminate the cost of labor, but that doesn’t make it free. Should a homeowner decide to replace their AC capacitor without the help of a professional, they can expect to pay between $9 and $45. This is for the part only, and they’ll have to know where to buy air conditioner capacitor parts and how to install them. A homeowner may also need to pay for a few tools, including an insulated screwdriver, safety goggles, and safety gloves. The homeowner needs to remember to turn off the power to the unit and should have a clear understanding of the replacement process before beginning.
The main issue with the DIY approach when replacing an AC capacitor is that it can be very dangerous. A damaged capacitor can shock the homeowner, leak dangerous liquids, or lead to serious injury. Even with the power disconnected from the AC unit, capacitors continue to hold energy, making them dangerous for a novice to handle. In nearly all cases, most homeowners will benefit from having an experienced HVAC technician replace the AC capacitor. This will guarantee the job is done correctly, which will protect an HVAC system from any further damage. A professional will know where to buy AC capacitor parts, provide an accurate diagnosis, and point out any other potential issues before they become a more serious and expensive problem. It may cost more for a homeowner to hire a professional than to do the job themselves, but it’s often worth it to know that the job has been done correctly.
To summarize, a DIY AC capacitor replacement job isn’t impossible. But without professional training, it’s not recommended. Instead, search for “where to find a tech to replace an ac capacitor near me” to get the job done safely.
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How to Save Money on AC Capacitor Replacement Cost
Replacing an AC capacitor isn’t the most expensive type of HVAC job, but that doesn’t mean a homeowner should pay more than necessary. Here are some ways to cut down on the costs.
- Sign up for financing rather than paying credit card interest. Replacing an AC capacitor isn’t terribly expensive compared to other HVAC costs. But if it’s too much to handle in one payment, the homeowner can see if the contractor offers financing options. By going with an interest-free or low-interest payment plan over a high-interest credit card, homeowners can save quite a bit while building a healthy financial relationship with a local HVAC contractor.
- Perform proper maintenance and cleaning. As capacitors age, they begin to break down. While proper maintenance and cleaning can’t prevent a capacitor from failing, they can slow down the aging process. Routine maintenance can help catch a failing capacitor before it causes a negative domino effect of failing components within the unit.
- Know the signs of a failing capacitor and catch the problem early. All homeowners should know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a failing AC capacitor. This will not only keep them safe (AC units can smoke or leak toxic fumes if the problem gets bad enough) but can also help save them money. Just like with most other home repairs, the earlier the problem is discovered, the less it can cost to fix it.
- Look for deals and rebates. While an AC capacitor may not fail at the exact time a local HVAC company is having its annual sale, a homeowner can look for rebates from part manufacturers or deals from local stores. They can also ask if an HVAC contractor can provide a discount if they’re having more than one service performed.
- Shop around for parts. Homeowners can purchase a new AC capacitor through their HVAC contractor, on their own through a big-box store, or directly from the manufacturer. By taking the time to shop around, homeowners can save on the initial cost of their AC capacitor. Just keep in mind that the majority of the cost of replacing an AC capacitor comes from labor and not the part itself, so spending a great deal of time shopping around for the cheapest AC capacitor isn’t necessary.
- Get quotes from more than one professional; hourly labor and job fees vary by contractor. Some contractors may underestimate the complexity of a job and undercharge, while more experienced contractors charge more for their experience. Gathering multiple quotes will ensure a homeowner is getting the best value as well as the experience a professional provides.
Questions to Ask About AC Capacitor Replacement
It’s recommended that homeowners receive several quotes from multiple HVAC contractors before moving forward with an HVAC capacitor replacement job. Asking questions of an HVAC professional ensures the job is carried out efficiently and for a fair price. Use these questions as a guide to finding the best AC capacitor replacement professional near you.
- What is wrong with my HVAC system?
- Do I need to consider a full AC unit replacement cost or just a capacitor replacement cost?
- Are you familiar with my HVAC unit’s make and model?
- If I need a replacement, what HVAC brands do you recommend?
- Are you licensed and insured?
- Can you provide me with a copy of your liability insurance policy?
- Do you offer a free consultation and price estimate?
- What is and isn’t included in my price estimate?
- How soon can the project start?
- Will you be completing the job, or will an employee be assigned?
- How many years of experience do you have?
- How are your employees trained?
- Do you offer a warranty or guarantee on your services?
- Is someone available 24/7 if I have an issue after the replacement?
- Will this replacement help save me money on my utility bills?
- How long will it take to install my new AC capacitor?
- Are there any rebates available for the type of capacitor I need?
- Do you provide financing through your financial department or with a third-party?
- What type of maintenance will my replacement capacitor need and do you provide it?
- Do you clean up after the replacement and take away old components and materials?
Scan the answers below for any last-minute questions before reaching out to a professional to replace an AC capacitor. It’s a relatively inexpensive repair that can extend the life of an AC unit, keeping homeowners cool and comfortable throughout the summer months.
Q. How long does an air conditioner last?
The lifespan of every air conditioner is different, and there are several factors that affect how long an AC unit lasts. For example, the make and model of the unit can let a homeowner know what to expect. Brands with a better reputation (and typically higher price tag) boast reviews of how long their units last.
Proper and routine maintenance is another important factor in how long an AC unit will last. Even climate and geographic location play a role in an HVAC system’s lifespan.
With this being said, an HVAC system, including the AC unit, should last at least 15 to 25 years. This can help a homeowner determine whether it’s best to repair or replace a single component, like an AC capacitor, or replace an entire unit.
Q. Are Freon leaks dangerous?
Freon is definitely a health hazard. Inhaling this toxic substance is poisonous and can make a homeowner gravely ill. Freon escaping outside is one thing, but if it enters a home, creating a foul-smelling odor, the area should be evacuated immediately. Freon is also unsafe for the environment, and once a leak begins, it will only get worse with time.
Freon leaks in the evaporator coils most often. A professional can diagnose this type of leak because the Freon escaping produces tiny visible bubbles. It’s recommended that a professional not only makes the diagnosis of a Freon leak but also repairs it.
Q. How do I know if my capacitor isn’t working?
Unfortunately, all capacitors will stop working eventually. This needs to be addressed immediately to prevent further damage to the unit and other components. The good news is that capacitors are designed to last for the life of an AC unit, or about 20 years. But harsh elements, poor maintenance, and excessive usage can shorten the lifespan of an AC capacitor.
Luckily, there are plenty of warning signs a unit will give if the capacitor is struggling. For example, it may begin to make a humming or clicking sound when firing up. Homeowners might also notice a burning smell or even smoke. Warm air blowing into the home is another sign a capacitor is failing. Once a capacitor has been pushed to its limit, the unit will randomly shut off or no longer turn on at all. This is when a homeowner needs to reach out to an HVAC professional.
Q. How much does it cost to put Freon in a central air unit?
Freon is a noncombustible gas used in air-conditioning applications; it’s what helps produce cool air that circulates through an HVAC system. If a professional suggests that an AC system needs to be recharged or refilled, they are talking about adding Freon to the unit.
Of course, this isn’t a free procedure. Freon alone isn’t cheap and costs about $125 to $150 per pound. Once labor is added to the equation, homeowners typically pay between $200 and $400 to have their AC units recharged. For larger units, the cost can be as much as $600.
Q. How much does it cost to fix an AC leak in a house?
The cost of an AC leak in a house depends on the HVAC location, how bad the leak is, how the issue is diagnosed, and how much replacement parts cost. That’s why it has a wide range between $200 and $1,500.
The AC leak test alone costs between $100 and $330. Once the leak is found and the problem is diagnosed, the cost of parts and labor is added in. One reason fixing an AC leak in a home can get so expensive is because of how long the job can take. For leaks that are difficult to detect or when repairs are in hard-to-reach places, the job can take up to 8 hours.
Q. Can I save on my air conditioner capacitor cost by installing the unit myself?
Technically speaking, a homeowner may be able to replace an AC capacitor on their own. A homeowner can save over $200 installing the component themselves. But thorough knowledge of HVAC systems and extreme caution are prerequisites for taking on this type of job. That’s why it’s always recommended that a professional HVAC contractor handles an AC capacitor replacement. They can properly diagnose the issue, make sure the rest of the unit remains undamaged during the installation of a new capacitor, and protect the homeowner from serious injury. Capacitors continue to hold energy, even after the electricity has been shut off to a unit. Without a thorough understanding of how to handle a charged capacitor, serious injury can occur. Reach out to an HVAC specialist near you if a DIY approach isn’t safe.
Q. How can I maximize the lifespan of my capacitor?
No AC capacitor can last forever. But there are several things homeowners can do to ensure their AC components, including capacitors, last as long as possible. Excessive heat is a catalyst for AC capacitor wear and tear. Homeowners can’t control the weather, but they can protect their unit from excessive rays by building a cover or erecting a wall around their AC unit. Homeowners should also take the time to clean their outdoor units and keep them free of debris, such as grass clippings and blowing leaves.
Homeowners should also be aware of voltage ratings. If their capacitor’s voltage rating doesn’t match what the unit needs, it can significantly shorten the component’s lifespan. Between choosing a capacitor with a lower or higher voltage, it’s recommended to exceed the voltage of the unit. For example, a 400-volt capacitor is ideal for a 370-volt AC unit.
Finally, scheduling an annual HVAC maintenance session can help maximize the lifespan of an AC capacitor. While many deteriorating capacitors go unnoticed until replacement is the only option, there are some scenarios where a quick repair is all that’s needed to get an AC unit up and running to its full potential again. And even if a capacitor can’t be repaired, having a technician out on a regular basis can help spot a failing capacitor before it starts to affect other components within the unit, saving the homeowner from a higher repair bill (compared to an AC capacitor cost of replacement) or even a full unit replacement (the average cost to replace heating and air conditioning is $7,000).
Sources: Angi, HomeAdvisor, DVAC Heating
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