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What Is an Air Conditioner Hard Start Kit?

A hard start kit is a device that smoothes out the starting process for your AC unit. Hard starting often becomes a problem as your unit ages, which these kits mitigate by reducing the electricity needed to get things up and running.

Hard starting is when your AC unit sputters or starts to turn on but then shuts off suddenly. Several issues can cause hard starting, but a hard start kit is often the best solution when you want to prolong the life of your unit.

If your air conditioner is hard starting, it can cause severe damage to the entire unit. Call one of the professionals at George Brazil HVAC today to discuss your options.

In this article, we’ll explore the following:

Prolong Your AC’s Life With George Brazil HVAC

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How a Hard Start Kit Works

Top angled view of an outdoor AC unit with a red arrow and red text pointing to the capacitor location

Most AC units have permanent split capacitor motors with low torque when starting. As these compressors age, they often start having problems when turning on. High voltage requirements for starting also mean lots of heat dissipated through your compressor, which causes damage over time.

Hard start kits installed on your compressor reduce the amount of electricity required for startup by adding more torque using a capacitor. Once the unit is up and running, the hard start kit also has a relay that removes the capacitor from the starting circuit, allowing your unit to run normally.

Signs Your AC is Hard Starting

Closeup of a circuit breaker panel with labeled breakers and two red arrows pointing out circuit breakers

When you turn on the air conditioning, do you hear your unit start to run? Does it stutter and then stop or start smoothly? Does your house cool off quickly, or are you stuck sweating it out during the summer?

There are four big signs that your air conditioner is having trouble starting.

  1. Short cycling: If your unit turns on but doesn't stay on long enough to complete a cooling cycle, this is called short cycling, which may mean your compressor needs some help. Short cycling is also common when your unit is overpowered and can bump up your cooling costs and wear out the unit faster than expected.
  2. When you turn on the AC, you hear clicking noises: If you hear a repetitive clicking sound instead of the fan's smooth turning and the compressor's hum, your unit is pulling too much power and failing to start.
  3. Running the air conditioner trips the circuit: Too much electrical power running through the circuit causes it to trip to prevent electrical damage. Unfortunately, this also means that your unit is likely hard starting and drawing more energy than it needs.
  4. Lights dim or flicker when you turn on the AC: If your lights seem to go from daylight to twilight or you see a whole house flicker as lights turn on and off, it's another sign that your unit is overdrawing power in an attempt to start.

If you notice any of these signs, contact one of our HVAC pros to assess the problem and recommend a repair.

Reasons To Invest in a Hard Start Kit

A ground AC unit sitting on a concrete slab next to a basement window well connecting into a white paneled home.

During the startup, your compressor draws 8 times more current than it needs for regular operation. All that extra power translates into a lot of heat. The heat rapidly wears out your compressor and other components, such as belts or motors. When critical parts burn out, you have a unit that doesn't cool your home. Not to mention that the compressor is often the most expensive and important part of the system, making it costly to repair.

A hard start kit makes kicking on a lot easier for your air conditioner. Increasing the starting torque minimizes the power needed to start the unit and makes starting faster and smoother. Startup efficiency increases from 50% to 98% with a hard start kit.

A hard start kit can prolong the life of your AC unit if the compressor is the source of the problem. If you have a newer unit that's otherwise in great condition, installing a hard start kit is a solid choice.

However, with older compressors, a hard start kit may not be worth installing. While these kits can help coax a bit more life out of your compressor, they're more of a Band-Aid than a long-term fix.

Whether To Replace Your AC Instead

If your unit is older, it may already have a built-in hard start kit, but if it doesn't, installing one can be a cost-effective way to keep your home cool for a season or two. But what if your compressor is older?

In most cases, replacing a compressor isn't a cost-effective option. You'll spend close to the unit's value on the compressor and lose out on the increased energy efficiency from a new air conditioner.

We recommend considering an air conditioner upgrade every 8-10 years in Arizona for maximum savings on monthly energy usage. Getting the most out of your AC unit means keeping it in good condition with regular maintenance.

Ready To Install a Hard Start Kit for Your AC Unit?

A uniformed George Brazil technician working on an outdoor AC unit

Contact George Brazil to have one of our expert technicians check your unit for an existing hard start kit and schedule an AC repair. We'll have your unit cooling your home in a single visit! Our mission is to provide exceptional service to Phoenix Metro homeowners every day. That’s why we provide a 100% satisfaction guarantee for our repairs and replacements. Locals rely on us, which is why we have thousands of 5-star Google reviews backing up our work.

Call us today at (602) 842-0009 to book service!