Located on the outside of the building, an air conditioner’s condenser is exposed to the elements and vulnerable to damage. Here’s how to identify and prevent problems with your condenser before they become serious.

What Does a Condenser Do?

Before discussing how to prevent problems with your condenser, it’s important to understand the function it plays in an air conditioning system. Refrigerant passes through the system, absorbing heat and replacing it with cool air. The heated refrigerant is then routed to the condenser, where it passes over condenser coils. The coils transfer the heat to air within the condenser, which is expelled with a fan. This allows the refrigerant to cool, after which it is redirected into the building to absorb more heat.

Common Condenser Problems

  • Bent Fins: Damage can bend the fins surrounding the condenser foil, blocking airflow.
  • Blocked Airflow: Some form of external obstruction, often plant life, prevents the condenser from releasing air properly.
  • Dirty Condenser Coils:  Debris builds up on the coils, impairing the transfer of heat from refrigerant to air.
  • Fan Problems: Blown capacitors, bent fan blades, and motor problems prevent the expulsion of heated air.
  • Refrigerant Leak: Cracks or leaks in the refrigerant system force the condenser to work harder.

How to Prevent Problems with Your Condenser

  1. Step 1: Have your air conditioning unit serviced every year. Please note: unless you possess HVAC certification, it’s best to leave most of the following preventative steps to a licensed professional.
  1. Step 2: Regularly inspect condenser coils for debris, cleaning the coils and any sludge that collects in the condenser pan.
  1. Step 3: Replace AC air filters according to the manufacturer’s recommended schedule.
  1. Step 4: Inspect the fan for signs of damage or wear, including bent blades and worn belts. Inspect the fan motor for signs of impending failure.
  1. Step 5: Clear the area surrounding the condenser of bushes, branches, or any items that could impair airflow. Keep grass cut short around the condenser, and secure the area to prevent dogs or vermin from urinating on or otherwise damaging the unit.
  1. Step 6: Install a condenser cover to reduce the amount of debris that accumulates within the unit.