The condenser coil is one of two coils found in your home’s cooling system that works in tandem to keep your home comfortable. The condenser coil is installed in the same outdoor unit that houses other air conditioning components like the AC compressor, cooling fan and motor, expansion valve, and an array of electrical components that keep the whole system operating within the required specifications.
The Condenser Coil Serves Two Main Functions.
The first of the condenser coil’s two functions in maintaining your home’s comfort is dissipating the heat collected by the liquid refrigerant into the environment during the summer months. During the winter, the condenser is used to extract heat from the outside air, which is transferred to the refrigerant, and brought inside to be dispersed by the air exchanger.
Your HVAC condenser is assisted in its efforts by a large fan, also housed in the outdoor AC unit box. The condenser fan is responsible for circulating fresh, outdoor air across the coil to allow for heat to transfer from coil to environment.
What Does an HVAC Condenser Coil Look Like?
The AC condenser is a metal coil with a series of aluminum or copper tubes and thin aluminum or copper fins surrounding the pipes. The appearance of the condenser may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but the image below is a good reference for what you could expect to see if you were to remove the cover of your outdoor AC unit.
How Does My HVAC Condenser Coil Work?
1. Releases Heat Collected Inside the Home.
The HVAC condenser takes in high-pressure, high-temperature refrigerant vapor from the compressor that has been compressed and heated. The vapor is delivered to the coil via several parallel refrigerant tubes that each take a portion of the hot refrigerant and run it across the length of the coil assembly. As the refrigerant passes through these tubes, the aluminum or copper fins can draw the heat from the refrigerant tubes and safely release it into the environment.
2. Uses Condensation Generated by Cooling for Evaporator Coil Cooling.
When the refrigerant passes through the condenser coil to release its heat, it changes from a high-pressure vapor into a high-pressure liquid, a process called condensation. The condensation process places the refrigerant in a state ready to be further cooled and expanded in the evaporator coil.
3. Sends Heated Refrigerant Through the Evaporator Coil.
The high-pressure refrigerant enters the indoor unit and passes through the expansion valve. This valve reduces the pressure of the refrigerant, allowing it to evaporate and transition back into a low-pressure vapor.
4. Fan-Assisted System Cooling.
A high-power fan is located in the center of the outdoor AC unit to facilitate faster heat transfer and improve airflow over the condenser coil. This fan draws outdoor air across the condenser coil, allowing more heat to dissipate quickly and begin condensation.
5. Refrigerant Return.
The low-pressure vapor refrigerant from the evaporator coil returns to the outdoor unit to repeat the cooling cycle. The refrigerant enters the compressor, and the process starts again.
How Long Will a Condenser Coil Last?
The lifespan of an HVAC condenser coil can vary depending on several factors, including:
- the quality of the coil
- usage patterns
- maintenance practices
- environmental conditions
- the overall quality and condition of the HVAC system
On average, a well-maintained condenser coil can provide between ten and fifteen years of reliable service.
What Can Cause a Condenser Coil to Fail?
Corrosion is probably the cause of most condenser coil failures. Continuous exposure to moisture, humidity, extreme heat and cold, and environmentally corrosive elements like salt water or other pollutants can break down the metal that makes up the coil.
Corrosion weakens the coil’s structural integrity and can cause internal leaks and fin damage.
Dirt and Debris Accumulation.
The condenser coil in the outdoor AC unit is more vulnerable to dirt, dust, leaves, and other debris. When debris collects within the fins and adheres to the surfaces of the coil, it can obstruct airflow and reduce the ability to transfer heat, potentially causing the coil to overheat. Prolonged use of the HVAC system with a clogged condenser coil will eventually result in coil failure.
Lack of Maintenance.
Inadequate or infrequent maintenance can also contribute to condenser coil failure. Keeping the condenser coil clean and debris-free is necessary, ensuring proper airflow and optimal performance. Neglecting condenser coil maintenance can lead to coil blockages, reduced efficiency, and eventual coil failure.
Refrigerant leaks can occur in the condenser coil due to various causes, including corrosion, physical damage, or faulty connections. Refrigerant leaks will cause the HVAC system to work harder overall, reduce cooling capacity, and can cause failure of the condenser coil and compressor over time.
How Can I Find Out if My Condenser Coil is Working Properly?
Proper maintenance, regular inspections, and prompt repairs by a professional HVAC company when a problem arises, can keep your system working at peak efficiency and performance. Symptoms of problems with the condenser coil tend to mimic other issues, making a specific diagnosis difficult for the homeowner.
Nick’s Air Conditioning employs only licensed and experienced HVAC professionals to maintain, repair, and install Houston’s HVAC systems.
Contact Nick’s Air Conditioning today to set up an appointment for an HVAC Tune-Up or a full HVAC maintenance service with one of our fully-background checked technicians. Find out what’s happening inside your HVAC system and what you can do to increase efficiency, performance, and even indoor air quality.