Your home’s air conditioner condenser is one of the essential parts of your air conditioning unit. Without it, your AC system wouldn’t be able to produce cold air. On top of playing a vital role in the cooling process, your air conditioner condenser also helps ensure that the unit functions continuously and effectively.
How an Air Conditioner Condenser Works
The condenser is located within your outdoor AC unit. The outside unit connects to the indoor part of the AC system by way of a copper refrigerant tube. The overall function of these two parts is to pull hot air from inside your home and then transform it into cold air that is released back into your home.
The air conditioner condenser fits into this process by pumping cold, liquid refrigerant from the outside unit to the indoor unit. This refrigerant then absorbs heat from the air inside your home, eventually turning it into a vapor. When it contains the maximum amount of heat it can hold, the vapor refrigerant is pumped back to the condenser. Once there, the condenser sucks in the hot vapor and heats it even more until it is a super hot gas.
This superheated refrigerant then begins to release its heat into the cooler outside air. When it has lost most of its heat, the refrigerant returns to liquid form. Then, the condenser sends this cooled refrigerant back to the indoor unit again to repeat the process.
Air Conditioner Condenser Maintenance
Regular maintenance of the condenser is crucial for the overall operation of your AC unit. However, this is not a job you want to take on yourself. Leave this to your HVAC technician, who will routinely check the condenser for damage, malfunction, or failure. It’s also vital that your service tech inspects the condenser pads to ensure the unit doesn’t have electrical issues that can affect the operation.
Air Conditioner Condenser Malfunction
If you notice that your AC system isn’t cooling efficiently, runs continuously, or hears noises coming from the unit, you may have a problem with the condenser. If you have an issue that could mean impending condenser failure, this is a big concern. Here are some common reasons why it may not be working.
Damaged or Blocked Suction Lines
Due to normal wear and tear, your AC system’s refrigerant lines will eventually develop holes and cracks. This will inhibit the flow of refrigerant and cause the system to work harder. In this case, you will first notice a decrease in the cooling capacity of the system. You may also notice that the system is running for more extended periods. This increases energy consumption, as well as the wearing of components.
Debris in the Coils
It’s easy for your AC system to accumulate dirt and other debris while it’s functioning. When this occurs in the condenser coil, it hinders the release of hot air from the coil, forcing the system to work harder and take longer to reach the set temperature. The resulting trapped heat and pressure can overheat the condenser, causing damage or failure.
Low Refrigerant Charge
As mentioned, refrigerant lines can develop cracks and holes that can cause them to leak. This decreases the refrigerant charge in the system. If you notice that your AC unit’s efficiency in cooling your home decreases, this is a telltale sign of refrigerant leakage, you must address this problem promptly because the system’s resulting overheating will soon mean failure.
Your AC system runs on electricity, so it logically follows that electrical problems can cause damage to any of its components, including the condenser. Electrical issues with an AC system cause a buildup of acids that can damage wiring and result in system burnout. If you notice that your system has abruptly shut down, this could indicate a wiring problem.
If your AC condenser is the heart of the system, then lubricant is the blood. Low lubricant levels cause numerous serious problems, including condenser failure. That’s why routine checks of these levels by an AC professional is just as important as checking the oil in your vehicle.
Contaminants in the Compressor
Because condensers are within your outdoor unit, they are exposed to various contaminants, including insects, fungi, and bacteria. These, combined with bird droppings, leaves, and other debris that can enter the unit, increases the likelihood of malfunctioning components. Also, heat within the system makes for a perfect habitat for the growth of contaminants.
Repair or Replace?
When a condenser malfunctions, repair options are often limited. However, your condenser is the most expensive part to replace. Therefore, it’s important to contact an HVAC professional before making any repair or replacement decisions. If the condenser is the issue, though, replacement may be your sole solution. If your AC units are still under warranty, replacement would cost you nothing. Although a condenser will rarely fail before the warranty running out.
On the other hand, what seems to be a broken condenser could be a malfunction of another component. This is why a professional technician must look at your unit as a whole to determine where the problem lies and if it makes more sense economically to repair or upgrade to a new cooling unit altogether. This will depend on the age of the unit and how severe the problem is. However, replacing the whole cooling system at once means that the indoor and outdoor units will be designed to work together and experience wear and tear in tandem. Meaning, pairing an old indoor unit with a new outdoor one can lead to long-term functional problems that are much worse than the issue you are trying to correct.
Regardless of the route you take, it’s imperative to choose reputable, trustworthy HVAC professionals. You want to feel confident that they will only recommend full unit replacement if it benefits you the most in the long run.