Residential air conditioners are complex systems, with a lot of different components that must remain tightly coordinated in order for things to run smoothly. A full understanding of the intricacies of such a system requires years of dedicated learning and experience. This is what sets experienced HVAC professionals apart from the rest of the pack.

Yet that doesn't mean that you as a homeowner can't benefit from at least a basic understanding of the various components required to keep an air conditioner running strong. This knowledge will allow you to better identify potential problems before they develop into full-blown disasters. One of the most crucial components of an air conditioning system is known as the condenser. If you would like to learn more about this integral component, as well as the importance of proper maintenance, read on. This article will provide a thorough introduction to the role played by your air conditioner's condenser.

Air Conditioning Condenser Definition

The condenser of the air conditioner and its attendant parts are located in the appropriately named condenser unit, which can usually be found in the back or side yard of a home. The condenser's job is to disperse the heat that the refrigerant has absorbed while passing through the evaporator coil inside your home. This facilitates the transformation of the refrigerant from a gaseous to a liquid state--a change that prepares the refrigerant to absorb more heat inside your home.

The most important part of the condenser is a thin coil made of metal--either copper or aluminum. This coil has a series of thin metal fins coming off of it. These fins make an air conditioning compressor look something like an automotive radiator. The purpose of the fins is to increase the surface area of the condenser, making it easier to pass the refrigerant's heat to the surrounding air. As the warm, gaseous refrigerant flows through the condenser, heat makes its way from the inside to the outside of the coil. Once this heat transfer has been accomplished, the refrigerant then flows into the compressor, which pressurizes the cooled gas.

Heat Transfer

As noted above, the critical function of a condenser is the transfer of heat. The coiled and thin-walled design of the tube is meant to disperse as much of the refrigerant's heat as possible. Yet most condensers still require some additional help to accomplish this task. Residential units usually do this by means of a condenser fan. This fan is tasked with the simple goal of increasing the circulation of air through and around the condenser coil. The goal here is to increase the airflow and thus ensure that heated air passes quickly out of the system. This enables a more rapid transfer of heat out of the system. The condenser fan also accomplishes the secondary goal of helping to prevent other internal components from overheating.

Condenser Maintenance

The condenser coil in a residential air conditioning system is housed in a special outdoor cabinet. This cabinet also contains all of the auxiliary components, including the compressor, the condenser fan, and a variety of control mechanisms. All of these parts must be adequately maintained and, just as importantly, kept clean. Otherwise, the system will not be able to transfer heat out of the refrigerant as effectively.

Dirty condenser fins can lead to a wide variety of problems. Most importantly, it will decrease the cooling capacity of your system. This will end up costing you money since it means your air conditioner will have to run for longer times in order to accomplish a stated cooling task.

A dirty condenser unit also leads to a much greater risk of secondary component failure. That's because, since your system has to be working so much harder, the wear and tear placed on other parts of the system are greatly increased. In other words, hiring a trustworthy HVAC company, to maintain your condenser unit will ultimately save you money over the long run.