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What is a Condenser Coil?

By Carol Francois
Updated May 17, 2024
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A condenser coil is one of many types of heat exchangers. The primary purpose of a heat exchanger is to efficiently transfer heat between two mediums. Condenser coils are found in space heaters, air conditioners, and car radiators. Although there are slight differences in the function of these devices, the primary purpose is the same.

The term condenser coil can be used to describe all heat and cooling systems or specifically refer to air coils. Air coils are a subset of the heat exchangers and are found in air conditioning units, in both cars and buildings. The condenser coil itself has a snake-like shape, with a complex set of internal tubing used to manage the process of transferring heat or cooled air.

In a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, water, steam, or a chemical refrigerant is used. The liquid is cooled by the chiller, then circulated through the system. The condensing coil is where the liquid mixture changes from liquid to gas. This compressed, cooled gas is then pushed through the ventilation system.

In the vapor-compression and refrigeration cycle, the condenser coil is the evaporator. This process is repeated to continually supply the building with cooled air. It is important to note that most condenser units are self-maintaining. However, over time, the unit may break down, causing a reduction in efficiency that may require the complete replacement in time.

There is a wide range of condenser coils available, depending on the specifications of the system and the overall output volume. It is very important to replace the condenser coil with the corresponding unit to avoid any damage to the air conditioning unit. Keep in mind it is best to hire a professional HVAC mechanic to replace the coil on your unit. This is often required to maintain the warranty and to avoid any damage to the very expensive unit.

The first sign that there may be a problem with the condenser coil is when the temperature of the cooled air is warmer than the thermostat setting. Check the amount of refrigerant available in the system to make sure there is enough coolant. If the coolant level is fine, but the air is not cool enough, then think about replacing the condenser coil. In many areas, there are restrictions on the disposal of old condenser coils. Take the time to review the local guidelines to ensure the old unit is taken to the proper disposal center.

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Discussion Comments

By GenevaMech — On May 30, 2011

@fiorite- GlassAxe forgot one very important part of an air conditioner unit. Before the fluid reaches the AC condenser coil, it passes through a compressor. The compressor squeezes the low-pressure gas that is removing the indoor heat and turns it into a hot, high-pressure gas. This gas then passes through the condenser, which acts like a radiator and dissipates heat.

Upon leaving the condenser, the high pressure gas returns to a lower energy high pressure liquid. This liquid is then sent to the evaporator to complete the cycle as GlassAxe stated.

By GlassAxe — On May 29, 2011

@fiorite- I can give you a quick breakdown of an HVAC unit. The condenser coil is actually where the coolant is turned from a gas back to a liquid. This is the unit that puts heat into the atmosphere.

When an air conditioner is operating, the evaporator coils, a.k.a. cooling coils, pull heat out of the air that the blower is forcing over the coils. The result is cold air being forced through the ducting, and the working fluid in the evaporator coils heating up and evaporating.

The evaporated pressurized fluid is forced to the condenser coils that are in contact with the warm outside air. The working fluid loses its heat to the atmosphere, causing it to cool and condense. This fluid then travels back down to the evaporator to start the cycle over again. I hope this helps.

By Fiorite — On May 28, 2011

So if the condensing coil is where the fluid turns to gas then why is it called a condenser coil? What does an evaporator coil do? My air conditioner is acting up, and I am not sure what is wrong with it. How does the chiller cool the fluid in the condensing coil? Air Conditioning units are as foreign to me as car mechanics. I would like to know the basics before I have the tech come in and give me a laundry list of expensive problems with my unit.

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