AC Condensers 101: 5 Common Questions About AC Condensers

Posted on: September 7, 2021

How does an AC condenser work A typical air conditioning system uses heat transfer to cool an interior space. It draws in the heat from the air inside your space and carries it to the outdoor unit, called the condenser. The condenser dissipates the heat and sends the newly cooled refrigerant back inside, enabling the cycle to continue.

But how exactly do AC condensers perform these functions, and what should you do if your condenser starts malfunctioning? Can you repair the condenser yourself, or should you immediately book air conditioning repair services in Menifee and other communities across South Riverside and San Diego Counties?

We have previously explored the different types of air conditioners and provided you with some tips on how to diagnose a malfunctioning AC condenser. Now we’ll help you get a better understanding of your AC system by answering some frequently asked questions and examining the vital role the condenser plays in your AC system. Keep reading to learn more.

How does an AC condenser work?

Air conditioners use refrigerant (R-410 in newer models) which is a special chemical compound that has the ability to rapidly change form between gas and liquid (this process is also known as “phase conversion”) without the need for major temperature fluctuations.

The cooling process begins when the interior unit of a split system AC (called the evaporator), draws in warm interior air and blows it over cold, low-pressure evaporator coils. This causes the refrigerant within them to absorb heat and convert to a gaseous state. The compressor then pressurizes this gas, which creates extra heat and pushes it outdoors to the exterior (condenser) unit.

The condenser is a set of coils located inside the outdoor unit of your AC. A powerful fan blows over these coils as the heated, gaseous refrigerant passes through them. This causes the heat to dissipate and enables the refrigerant to transform back into liquid form. At this point, the liquid refrigerant is sent back to the interior unit to begin the process all over again.

What do condenser fins do?

There are two types of AC fins: condenser fins and evaporator fins. Condenser fins are located on the exterior of the condenser and resemble a grille with metal fins lined alongside it. They assist with heat dissipation by enabling fan-blown air to smoothly flow through and out of the condenser.

In comparison, evaporator fins are located in the interior portion of a split system AC. Like the condenser fins, they help direct fan-blown air, but they do so inwards rather than outwards. They make it easier for the air to pass over the evaporator coil, which transfers indoor heat to the refrigerant within and then transfers gaseous refrigerant outside to the condenser.

Can you fix condenser fins?

Harsh weather, debris buildup, pressure washing, careless weed eating procedures, tampering, and other unfortunate occurrences can all cause the fins on your AC’s condenser to become bent. If the damage is severe enough, bent condenser fins may obstruct airflow and force your AC to work harder to dissipate heat.

If the bending isn’t too extensive, you may be able to straighten the fins by using a special fin comb. This tool has interchangeable heads that are designed to be used with different-sized fins, and it can also be used to clean difficult-to-reach dirt.

Keep in mind that straightening bent condenser fins is a slow process that requires painstaking attention to detail. Unless the bending isn’t too severe or you’re a trained HVAC technician yourself, it’s recommended that you outsource this task to the professionals.

Can you fix an AC condenser yourself?

An air conditioner’s condenser is a complex device that contains numerous moving parts, all of which have to be set up and serviced correctly to ensure proper operation. Improper installation and repair can easily result in component failure, inefficient operation, and loss of warranty coverage.

More importantly, air conditioners contain refrigerant chemicals that can be hazardous to people, animals, and the planet. Mistakes can easily lead to these harmful chemicals being released into your home and the surrounding environment.

Due to the risks outlined above, you shouldn’t attempt DIY repairs on your AC’s condenser unless you’re a HVAC technician yourself and you have access to specialized equipment. To ensure your safety and the flawless operation of your AC, always leave this job to the experts.

How much does an air conditioner condenser cost?

Situations where an entire AC condenser needs to be replaced are rare. Most failures are caused by component malfunctions, and are typically addressed by replacing or (if possible) repairing the components in question.

The cost can therefore vary depending on what exactly has failed. Whether the AC unit is under warranty is another major factor. As of this writing, the average AC condenser repair and replacement job costs about $650 if you have a warranty, and about $1300 if you don’t.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the average costs:

  • Complete condenser unit replacement: $1300 to $4000
  • Condenser unit fan motor: $100 to $700
  • Refrigerant leaks detection and repair: $225 to $1600
  • Condenser coil replacement: $900 to $2800
  • Circuit board replacement: $120 to $600
  • Flushing the condensate drain line: $75 to $260
  • Drain pan: $250 to $600
  • Thermostat replacement or repair: $115 to $470
  • Condensate pump: $100 to $260
  • Circuit breaker fuse or switch replacement: $100 to $200

Where can I book professional air conditioning repair services in Menifee & beyond?

How much does an air conditioner condenser costHaving a functional AC is a must in this day and age. Here at Action Air Conditioning & Heating Installation, we can help you increase your comfort and reduce your energy expenditures by ensuring flawless operation of your HVAC and solar systems.

Our services are available throughout Riverside and San Diego Counties, so don’t hesitate to give us a call if you’re in need of solar, furnace, or cooling system installation, repair, and maintenance in Menifee, Encinitas, San Diego, La Jolla, and other cities in the vicinity.

Schedule our services today and enjoy a thrilling afternoon at the AMR Skate Park with your loved ones, secure in the knowledge that the key systems at your home or workplace are being taken care of by the top technicians in the area.