Tip & How-To about Heating & Cooling
If you discover that your outdoor air conditioner and/or heat pump runs continuously even with your thermostat off and the indoor blower is off, the most probable cause is a stuck contactor. In most residential air conditioners / heat pumps, the contactor is the switch that allows voltage to your compressor and condensor fan motor; therefore, allowing them to run. The contactor allows line voltage (normally 208 - 240 volts) to pass through a set a contacts to your motor. The contacts pull in when the thermostat calls for Cooling and they "open" when the thermostat "satisfies". This is accomplished with the use of a low voltage coil. When 24 volts is applied to the coil, it creates a magnetic force that pulls the contactor in to close the contacts. When the 24 volts is removed from the coil, the magnetic force no longer exists.....a spring will force the contacts back "open" and stop the compressor and fan motor from running.
The contactor is considered a wear-n-tear item as, eventually, the contacts will wear and begin to "pit". Eventually, they will either pit so severely, they will not allow enough voltage through them to operate the motors OR they may allow enough voltage and then overheat and weld themselves together. Often times you can lightly tap on the contactor and it will "free" the contacts and stop the motors. Unfortunately, once the contactor starts "sticking" it is highly likely it will stick again. Therefore, it is recommended that the contactor be replaced at first sign of sticking or when the contacts show signs of damage/overheating via a visual inspection.
Here's a video that might be helpful to you. :-)
Posted by laura... on
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