Outdoor Condenser Coil and Fan
Quicklinks to the other articles in this series:
What Are the Outdoor Condenser Coil and Fan?
The outdoor condenser coil, is very much like the radiator in your car. That is to say, copper tubes that run thru aluminum fins hold the refrigerant. This design allows air pass over them and efficiently release heat. The condenser fan is its sidekick in this endeavor, providing the necessary cool air for heat transfer.
Where Are the Outdoor Condenser Coil and Fan Located?
As the name suggests, in a traditional split air conditioning system, the outdoor coil is found outside. The condenser fan is also outdoors in the same unit. The outdoor coil is the silver or sometimes black looking wall that wraps around your entire outdoor unit. Also a metal grid or panels surrounds the coil is designed to protect the delicate fins. The outdoor condenser fan motor is attached under the top of your air conditioner to be able to pull air in thru the coil and out thru the top of the unit.
How Do They Work Together?
Refrigerant coming out of the compressor is in vapor form and very hot when it reaches the outdoor coil. The outdoor coil must cool the vapor back to a liquid form in order for the cooling cycle to continue. This is where the condenser fan becomes essential.
By blowing outdoor air, which is cooler than the hot refrigerant vapor, across the outdoor coil, heat transfers from the refrigerant to the outdoors. With enough heat transferred, the refrigerant starts to condense back into a liquid form halfway thru the coil and is fully liquid before it leaves the coil.
What Makes Them Important?
The better the outdoor coil releases its heat, the more efficient the air conditioner is. That is why higher efficient A/C units are larger in overall size, they have more coil surface area! A properly functioning outdoor fan keeps the right amount of air moving across the coils which causes that change from vapor to liquid. In addition, modern fan motors can run at various speeds depending on the cooling needs, saving energy. If your old fan motor goes out the compressor will overheat and shut off to protect it.
Maintenance and Repairs
Regularly clean outdoor coils to maximize cooling performance and ensure that your air conditioning system has a long and efficient life. For example, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, a dirty outdoor coil can increase a home’s energy consumption by up to 30 percent! Especially near the ocean, the salt air can destroy coils very quickly and need to be cleaned more often.
You can help by removing leaves, sticks, debris and cutting back any landscaping from around the your outdoor unit. However, opening up and cleaning a condenser coil is one of those projects that you should not attempt to do yourself. Leave it to a technician and schedule an annual maintenance call.
Condenser fans have a set temperature at which they will safely operate, often around 150 degrees Fahrenheit. However, sometimes they can overheat, often due to an incorrectly sized motor, poor airflow, lack of lubrication, or over-ramping.
You can quickly check if your condenser fan motor is working by placing your hand over the top of the outdoor unit; you should feel hot air blowing pretty strongly and see the fan spinning. If you hear your a/c running but don’t see or feel the fan working, you should call one of Bob Jenson’s professional technicians to diagnose the problem.
In the next article we will talk about the copper lines that connect the two parts of your split system and the interesting science behind how refrigerants remove heat from your home!
For over 45 years, Bob Jenson has been providing quality heating and air services to the San Diego community.
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