what is an AC condenser?An air conditioner condenser is what allows the unit to release the heat from your home into the outdoor air. Without the condenser, your air conditioner wouldn’t function at all. If your condenser is damaged, your air conditioner may not work at all, or you may notice certain symptoms. We’ll discuss what the condenser is and how you’ll know if it needs repair.

What is an AC Condenser?

Air conditioners work by controlling refrigerant. There are a few different types of refrigerant, but they all work by absorbing and releasing heat when they change state from a liquid to a gas. At first, the air conditioner has cool refrigerant. Then the air conditioner’s compressor forces the liquid refrigerant into a gas. When it changes, it absorbs heat from your home, and the air conditioner produces cold air.

However, the heat that the refrigerant just absorbed needs to go somewhere, and the last thing you want to do is release it back into your home. So, the air conditioner pumps the refrigerant outside to the outdoor unit of your air conditioner. The outdoor unit contains the condenser coils, which allow the refrigerant to release its heat outside. It has a fan that helps circulate the air over the coils, which helps release the heat faster.

If you’ve ever walked by the condenser while the air conditioner is on, you’ve probably felt the amazing amounts of heat that can be released by the condenser. In short, the condenser is what ultimately removes heat from your home in the summer, so that it’s significantly cooler inside.

What if My Condenser is Broken?

There are many different parts of the condenser, all of which may develop problems:

  • Condenser coils: The coils allow the refrigerant to release heat.
  • Condenser fan and motor: Helps the heat dissipate faster from the coils.
  • Condensate pump: Removes water, or condensation, which gathers when the refrigerant releases heat.
  • Condenser pad: The supportive base of the condenser.
  • Condensate drain line: A tube that the condensation drains out of.
  • Condenser relay switch: Controls the voltage that the condenser receives, allowing it to turn on and off as needed.

The specific symptoms you’ll see from a broken condenser depend on which part or parts is broken. You may notice these symptoms:

  • Air conditioner running less efficiently
  • Unusual noise from the air conditioner
  • Yellowing capacitor ring
  • Fan has stopped spinning
  • Air conditioner no longer working
  • Leaking moisture or refrigerant

Should I Replace My AC Condenser?

If you have a broken condenser, unlike a compressor, it is often wise to replace the parts. Everything from the coils to the fan can be replaced. It is just a matter of whether that is worthwhile to you. If you have an older unit, one that keeps needing major repairs, or one where multiple parts of the condenser have given out, it may be more cost-effective in the long run to replace the whole unit. Your HVAC technician should be able to advise you as to whether it makes more sense to repair or replace your air conditioner.