Aug 01

Why Is My Outside AC Unit Not Running But Inside Is?

homeowner looking confused because outside ac unit not running but indoor unit is

With the summer comes high temperatures and humidity levels. Some places are so hot that using an air conditioner is required. The peak of the season is when most air conditioning problems occur. For example, you may have tried to lower the temperature in your home to realize that your air conditioner is not working properly. A common issue that occurs this time of year is when the outside AC unit not running but inside is. This is a common problem that has several likely causes. This article discusses all you need to know about this problem and what you can do about it.

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Why Is My Outside AC Unit Not Running But The Indoor Unit Is?

The indoor and outdoor units of your air conditioning systems work together to achieve the desired cooling results. The house won’t cool down if one of the two units doesn’t work. You can wait a long time, but it won’t reach the set temperatures. Here are two ways you can determine if the outside AC unit is running or not:

No Sound Coming From The Condenser

image of an air conditioner compressor depicting ac unit operation

Listen if sounds are coming from your outdoor unit. It is a sign that it isn’t working as it should if you don’t hear any sound. Some air conditioners are designed to be quiet, but you should still hear a low hum. The complete absence of sound means the motors and compressors aren’t running.

Warm Air From The Indoor Air Handler

Place a hand against the indoor unit of your air conditioner. The outdoor unit isn’t correctly working if hot air blows against your hand instead of cold air. This indicates that the warm summer air only passes through the unit instead of getting cool.

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What Causes The Outdoor Air Conditioner Fan To Stop Working?

The problem is often due to fan failure. The blades aren’t spinning, but the other components of the outdoor air conditioner may be working fine. Even though you diligently change the air filters and conduct other upkeep tasks, this can still occur. Here are the common causes a fan stops rotating:

Deficient Power Supply To The Air Conditioner

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Fan motors are electricity-powered. With insufficient power, the fans won’t spin properly. It can be a challenge to pinpoint the exact inhibitor in different cases. An experienced HVAC contractor can help you fix it with an accurate diagnosis.

Air Conditioner Contactor Problems

The fan motor is controlled by the contactor. A failing contactor means that the blade will stop spinning. Do not try to conduct a DIY repair on this component, as it can further worsen the problem in the hands of an untrained individual. Have an expert check and fix it immediately.

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Burnt Out Air Conditioner Fan Motor

Excessive stress can cause motor burnout. They eventually give in to wear and tear, which is only hastened with poor maintenance. Regular tune-ups are crucial as they ensure problems are detected and repaired at their earliest stages, so expensive repairs are avoided.

Bad Air Conditioner Capacitors

multimeter and run capacitors of an outdoor air conditioning unit

Bad capacitors can also result in outside fan failures. These components are responsible for storing energy to ensure the blades keep rotating. They are comparable to batteries that lose their stored energy after heavy use. High temperatures and power surges can damage these components. A failed capacitor cannot provide power to the fan.

Check if this is the problem by sliding a long wooden stick through the fan grate. Nudge the blades gently to kickstart its rotation. You likely have a bad capacitor if this triggers the blade to start spinning. The fan will not rotate even with this method after a while. A professional will need to replace it since it involves high voltage and sensitive electrical components.

Debris On The Air Conditioner Axle

The external force from the stick should be enough for the blades to spin. Check for debris on the fan axle if this doesn’t work. Dirt buildup may be on the motor’s bearings as well. Hire a technician to take the components apart and clean them to ensure unimpeded movement.

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Common Causes For Compressor AC Unit Problems

Sometimes, the fans aren’t the only component that stopped working. The outside air conditioning unit may be completely not working. This is a big problem for homeowners and may need to be checked by a professional. No one wants a non-functional air conditioner during the summer, so ensure it is fixed as soon as possible. Here are several likely causes of sudden breakdown in your system:

Air Conditioner Thermostat Settings

image of homeowner adjusting programmable thermostat

Check the basics before coming to the worst-case conclusions. This includes ensuring the correct system setup. Start with the thermostat settings, as someone may have input the wrong settings and set the temperature too high. Lower the temperature and check if that changes anything. You may even find that it is not powered on. Replace the thermostat batteries with new ones and try again.

Dirty Outside Compressor Unit

Dirty outdoor units cause the compressor to overheat. Dust accumulation on the outdoor unit’s surface prevents heat from being released to the outside air. The system will shut down when it can no longer handle the situation. Check the unit to know if the dust has gotten out of hand. Turn off the power and disconnect the system before cleaning it. You can also have an experienced HVAC technician clean it for you.

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Safety Switch Lock

Air conditioners have safety switches that lock the outdoor unit when they sense danger. A reset is needed to start the system again. To do this, turn the system off via the thermostat or breaker. Wait for several minutes before turning it on again. Check if your system is back to normal. Otherwise, call a professional to troubleshoot your system.

Tripped Circuit Breaker

image of homeowner at circuit breaker box after ac stopped working

A thunderstorm that happened recently may have caused power surges. These may then result in your circuit breakers overloading. Check the circuit panel to ensure if the breakers tripped. Turn them off and on again. If you live in an older home, you may have blown the fuses in your fuse box. Call a technician to replace your air conditioner’s fuse at the shut-off box. At times, the breakers constantly trip despite trying to normalize the situation. There is likely a deeper electrical issue that can only be resolved by a licensed electrician.

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Air Conditioner Compressor Failure

The air conditioner’s most crucial component is the compressor. Its job is to pump the refrigerant throughout the system at the right pressure level. Compressor failure means that the AC cannot cool the indoor air. A failing compressor will stutter or emit a loud noise when the cooling unit is turned on. It will eventually stop turning on completely. This requires a lot of money to fix, and you may even need a whole system upgrade instead.



An outdoor unit that’s not running when the indoor unit works fine can be a confusing situation. A quick check may reveal the possible cause. Sometimes, you can even bring your system back to normal with minimal effort. However, some cases require a professional as the problem is more complex than an untrained individual can handle. Experienced techs will find the reason behind the issue and conduct the needed repairs. This way, you can enjoy a cool home environment again with a fully operational air conditioner. Also, be sure to make an appointment for central air conditioner maintenance once a year. This is a great way to prevent cooling system problems from escalating while ensuring your comfort and efficiency.

Call Skylands Energy Service For All Of Your HVAC Requirements

image of skylands energy service logoFor high-quality HVAC cooling services in Central New Jersey, make sure to contact Skylands Energy Service. We have the best professionally certified technicians who can conduct excellent HVAC maintenance, installations, replacements, and repairs. All our friendly techs are skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable to service your HVAC system correctly.

Skylands Energy Service offers the most affordable HVAC service prices in the area. Our tune-up services can increase your energy efficiency and enhance your comfort while reducing your energy costs. If you need to repair or replace your HVAC system, we can recommend the best solutions for your home within your budget. Your satisfaction is our priority, so all our work is guaranteed. Call Skylands Energy Service to book an appointment. We offer free, in-home estimates.

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