As a homeowner, you will understand very quickly how important your home’s climate truly is. If your home is uncomfortably hot or cold, you will become miserable and may find it difficult to sleep at night. The lack of sleep can eventually take a toll and decrease your body’s ability to fight off illness. Suffice to say, your home’s HVAC system is immensely important. Unfortunately, heating and cooling units are very complex and contain an abundance of components. The AC condenser is one of the most vital. If something goes wrong with the condenser, you’ll want to take action immediately and rectify the problem as quickly as possible.
Within this guide, you will learn all about this key component of your air conditioner.
How AC Condenser Works
What most people do not know is air conditioners operate in a similar manner as refrigerators. The three major components of an air conditioner are an evaporator, condenser, and compressor. A car AC condenser works in the same manner as a residential and commercial unit. In a split unit, the condenser is located in the outside unit. The compressor houses the refrigerant or Freon, squeezing the molecules together to create a higher-level temperature and energy level. Once the unit is switched on, the Freon will exit the compressor as a high-pressurized gas and flow directly into the condenser.
The liquid will eventually transform to a gas and evaporate while extracting heat. This process is necessary because it allows the molecules of the fluid to separate and form a gas. The onboard fan circulates the air inside the home, pushing the hot air up towards the ceiling. The return pulls the hot air out of the room, down into the return duct, and back outside. This process repeats itself over and over until the temperature setting is reached and then the unit will automatically switch off.
Different Types Of Condensers
Whether you’re working on your vehicle or on your unit at home, you should know that there are several different types of condensers. These units work very similarly, but they’re also different in various ways. Below, you will learn a little more about some of the different types.
- Double Pipe – The double pipe type is exactly what it sounds like. It features a pipe inside of a pipe. This type of arrangement is generally found in ammonia systems. The unit will typically be installed on a wall and the ammonia mixture will enter near the bottom.
- Shell And Coil – With this type, the coil is positioned inside of the steel shell. Although the shell and coil condenser tends to be very affordable, it requires regular maintenance. And unfortunately, cleaning the coil is very difficult, since you’ll first need to remove the head to reach the coil.
- Shell And Tube – The shell and tube condenser is also very common. This type features several tubes inside of a steel shell. Water flows inside and this creates vapors around the tubes. The vapors will condense, turn into droplets and fall to the bottom of the unit.
The specific type of condenser you’re working with will help you determine how to maintain the unit and will also give you a better of an idea of what could be wrong.
AC Condenser Price
A lot of consumers will believe that it is best to simply throw their own condenser away and invest in a new one. Although this is a good way to rectify the problem, it is essential to consider all of your options first! The truth of the matter is the condensers can be fairly expensive. Some of the cheapest models will still run more than a hundred bucks. Sometimes, the problem is so minor that it can be fixed within a few minutes. Therefore, it is wise to carefully examine the situation and troubleshoot the problem, before making the purchase. If it is possible to repair the condenser, you’ll be able to do so and save yourself a good chunk of change.
The Most Common Causes Of Problems
Before attempting to carry out an AC condenser repair project, you should understand what could possibly go wrong. Unfortunately, condensers are not designed to last for eternity and many different things can go awry. Of course, some problems are much more common than others. Below, you will discover three of the most common causes of condenser problems.
- Leaks – An AC condenser leak will be a major problem. Sadly, leaks are also fairly common. If the unit’s refrigerant line begins to leak, the entire system will likely become inefficient. Leaks can occur almost anywhere, including at the connections and along the coil. Listen to your unit carefully. If you notice a hissing noise, it is highly likely you’re dealing with a leak. Leaks will also decrease the power of the unit and cause frost to build up on the coils.
- Electrical Problems – Obviously, your condenser won’t work efficiency, if it doesn’t receive power. Electricity is responsible for powering the motor. Problems with the power source of the associated wires can stop your condenser from working or it may hinder the cooling process. Sadly, most ordinary homeowners may not be able to fix an electrical problem without a little professional assistance.
- Dirt and Debris – Another thing to remember is that your condenser can be damaged by dirt and debris. Outside objects, such as dirt, sticks, rocks, and other debris, can get inside of the condenser and lead to major problems. This could lead to damage of the fan, belt, and blade. The best course of action will depend solely on the severity of the problem. It may be possible to fix it with a quick repair, but a replacement might also be required. Before looking at the AC condenser price and thinking about buying a replacement, you should try to find the source of the problem. If you get lucky, you may be able to rectify the problem with a simple repair. Doing so will give you the ability to save money!
Another thing to remember is that it is a good idea to perform regular maintenance on your AC unit. Whether you’re working on the AC unit in your car or home, you should know that both require maintenance. And thankfully, the maintenance steps are very similar. First and foremost, you should take the time to clean the condenser’s fines. Make sure power is shut off to the unit. It is possible to clean the fins using a vacuum cleaner and a soft brush. It is essential to be very gentle. If you use too much force, the fins will get crushed and this will obstruct airflow.
If you’re working on your home’s AC, you will also want to give the inside unit a thorough scrubbing. Make sure you replace the filter as well. Once you’re finished, you’ll want to turn the unit back on and make sure everything is working as intended. It is vital to carry out this process at least two or three times a year.
If you are choosing to undertake this project alone, you will need to do a bit of research, before beginning the repair process. As an amateur, you will want to read the manufacturer’s instruction manual, there you will probably find a few troubleshooting solutions. These can come in handy and help you solve the issue without contacting a professional HVAC repairman. It is always wise to begin the process, by replacing the cheapest components first. This will include the capacitors and relay or contactor. The serial number is located on a nameplate, embedded into the condensing unit.
Always make sure the filter is clean and the registers are completely open if you are experiencing poor air flow. Many people will try to keep their electric bill at a minimum, so they shut several registers. This is a huge mistake because closed registers can cause the evaporator coil to ice up. Keep the registers open so you do not experience this issue. The next part you should check is the thermostat, which can be checked by changing the thermostat mode. Switch the thermostat mode to off and switch the fan to auto. This will melt the ice on the evaporator coil if there is any buildup. Let the fan run about 30 minutes before switching the unit back on. If the unit begins to work as normal, you have solved the issue without replacing any parts.
Clogged Condenser Coils
Another issue that is very common is clogged condenser coils. When this occurs, the compressor will overheat and then shut down. It is also very common to experience intermittent periods of cooling and no cooling. The best way to clean the condenser coils is with a water hose. It is crucial to avoid hitting the fins because they are constructed out of very thin metal that bends very easy. While you are cleaning the coils, you may want to look around for dented fins. If you find any, you should take a butter knife and straighten them back out. Dented fins can decrease air flow and cause the onboard motor to work harder, decreasing efficiency and increasing the energy bill.