How Much Does it Cost to Replace an AC Compressor? A Portland Tech Answers

If you’ve been told by a technician you need to replace your compressor, you probably didn’t believe one part could be so expensive.

Unfortunately, that’s the hard truth—compressor replacement is expensive. In Portland, the cost to replace an AC compressor ranges from $1,000 to $3,000.

We know you probably have questions, such as:

  • What is a compressor?
  • Why is a compressor so expensive to replace?
  • How do I know if my compressor really needs to be replaced?
  • Can a compressor be repaired?
  • Should I replace my compressor or buy a new air conditioner?

We’ll answer these questions in more detail below.

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What is a compressor?

The purpose of the compressor is to circulate refrigerant (the substance that removes heat from warm air) throughout the air conditioner.

The compressor, located in the outdoor AC unit

You can think of the compressor as the “heart,” and the refrigerant as the “blood” of your AC system.

Since the compressor is such a vital part of an AC system, if the compressor dies, your AC can’t cool your home at all.

Why is a compressor so expensive to replace?

Replacing a compressor is costly for two reasons:

  1. The part itself is expensive
  2. The job is time-consuming (requires 4+ hours)

That said, the cost to replace your compressor depends on the following factors:

  • The size of your compressor: The bigger the AC system, the more powerful the compressor needs to be. More powerful compressors are also more expensive.
  • The type of compressor you have: Compressors can either be single-stage, two-stage or variable-speed. Single-stage compressors are the least expensive to replace, variable-speed compressors are the most expensive and two-stage compressors are mid-priced.
  • Your AC parts warranty: Most AC manufacturers offer a limited parts warranty on all new systems. This warranty usually covers replacing the compressor since it is a vital part of the AC system. If the warranty is still valid, you may not have to pay as much to replace the compressor. You can figure out if your warranty is still valid by searching for your AC model number on the manufacturer's website. The model number is located on your outdoor unit.

How do I know if my compressor really needs to be replaced?

The following signs indicate you may need a new compressor:

  • You hear loud or strange noises coming from the outdoor unit
  • The outdoor unit shakes when it turns on
  • Your AC is constantly tripping (shutting off) the circuit breaker
  • You can see refrigerant leaking from the outdoor unit

Since replacing a compressor is such a big investment, we recommend contacting a trustworthy technician to clearly explain why your compressor needs to be replaced, and give upfront, honest pricing for the job.

Can a compressor be repaired?

Homeowners often ask if a compressor can be repaired instead of replaced entirely. Unfortunately, the compressor cannot be repaired in the field by a technician. A compressor is hermetically sealed (meaning it’s airtight), and can only be opened with special equipment. This means that the only way to repair the internal parts of the compressor is to send it back to the manufacturer.

Should I replace my compressor or buy a new air conditioner?

Since a new compressor is so expensive, you may be wondering if it’s more cost-effective to simply buy a new air conditioner.

Here’s what we recommend:

  • If your AC is under 3 years old, your best option is to replace the compressor. Chances are, the parts warranty will still be valid, which means the cost will be greatly reduced (or even free).
  • If your AC is 3 to 10 years old, check to see if your parts warranty will cover the cost of compressor replacement. If it does, just replace the compressor. However, if your current AC has other issues, or has always struggled to cool your home properly, it may be best to invest in a new air conditioner.

If your AC is over 10 years old, definitely consider replacing your air conditioner altogether. Residential central air conditioners only last 10 to 12 years on average, so it’s better to put the money towards a new system instead of sinking money into an old AC.

Need an AC repair from a Portland pro?

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Whether you just want a second opinion or you know it’s time to replace your compressor/AC, we can help. We offer upfront, honest pricing and easy financing options.