Are You Paying Proper Attention to Your Condenser Unit

Condenser coils play a critical role in your air conditioner’s cooling system. Yet they are fraught with risk. We need to pay attention to our condenser coils. Let’s take a closer look. Literally.

Have you seen your condenser lately? Is it sitting on a nice even concrete of stone pad? Or are bushes encroaching on it? Of course, it isn’t or you have an immediate repair task at hand. Otherwise, I hope you have an Air Conditioning and Heating Maintenance contract, and are holding a qualified HVAC service company responsible for your HVAC system. In this specific case, it revolves around keeping your air conditioning coils clean and protecting your heating and air conditioning system.

The condenser coils are where your cooling system casts off heat from your home into the outdoors. Your A/C outdoor unit is built like a tower with a powerful fan at the very top which draws air up and out of the outdoor unit. Around the edges are arrayed your condenser coils. This fan creates negative pressure in the outdoor unit that sucks in ambient air through the sides of the Air Conditioner, and across the condenser coils.

This is a typical Condensing Unit. The lawn is nicely clipped and there is a nice concrete pad. No weeds, or bushes, or vines are intertwined. But we should wonder WHAT is inside on the air conditioning condensing coils impeding air flow.

The coils dissipate the heat created in changing the state of your refrigerant back to a liquid. Therefore, condenser coils need clean surfaces and open airway passages to more easily allow the heat in the coils to radiate and conduct heat away and allow the refrigerant to return to a liquid state, where it will be returned under pressure to the air handler inside the house where the refrigerant will again be expanded into gas in the evaporator coils and effectively strip your home of the energy to do this. Any questions here? check out the notes on the thermodynamics of a heat pump just below.

Here is an easy understood diagram and a clear explanation on the heat pump cycle.
You might know it from school as the Carnot cycle, or the refrigeration cycle. But the Principles of Thermodynamics allow us to leverage the phase change of refrigerants so that we can economically extract heat from your home, and deposit it out of doors. This page details and explains how this works within the components of your Air Conditioning system.  

What is phase change and why should I care?
Phase change in the refrigerant in your AC system is what keeps you cool in summer. Yes, it is that important. Like life saving. Do you want to know more?

A key factor here is hot weather, the hotter the weather the bigger the effort needed to dissipate heat. Temperature differential aids this process, the bigger the easier. Therefore, any issue with coils dissipating heat well will be most acute on the hottest days.

Because those coils are located outside, they are susceptible to dirt and fuzz and crap buildup over time. All kinds of things can foul a condenser coil here in North Texas. Living near a major arterial can just put a lot of dirt in the air. We live in a virtual garden of Eden in North Texas, and flowering trees and bushes and wildflowers can put off pollens and blossom fragments, and the North Texas winds will carry them around our neighborhoods. If you coils aren’t kept clean, your air conditioner can encounter some very serious problems. And we understand these problems are most acute on the hottest days.

 

image despicts a fuzz filled, dirty condensing coil assembly.

Fuzz filled condenser coil assembly is seriously impacted. Make sure this is not happening to your outside air conditioning unit.

Dirty coils can impact you in several ways.

You might be less comfortable because dirty coils cause the system to be out of regulation and not cooling as effectively as the system can when in tolerance. If you are not as comfortable as you would like to be, dirty coils could be contributing to your misery. Longer run times, less ability to deal with humidity; several issues which directly impact your comfort could be caused by dirty coils.

Nobody likes to pay high energy bills, and a dirty coil will cause your system to work harder to make you comfortable and working hard in mechanical systems means using more electrical energy.

Dirty coils stress the compressor in the outside A/C unit and stress is what causes premature failures. But heating and cooling is all one system and one major component not performing properly can stress all other components.All components are under stress. Stress causes premature wear and early failure. Failure can leave you without cool on the hottest days. Therefore we want our coils clean and our system in top running order.

So now we know why we want our condenser coils clean. Now let’s look at two issues to resolve about keeping them clean.

The simplest way to keep your Air Conditioning condensing coils clean is to have a maintenance agreement with a reputable Heating and Air Conditioning Service Company and have them checking on and cleaning your condenser coils on a regular basis.

However, there are unusual cases where your condenser coils could use even more attention. Many of us live in tree lined neighborhoods or out in the wild with the poplars. We have so many variety of trees and flowering bushes here in North texas and this can create an unusual problem for an outside air conditioning unit.

A flourishing burst of pollen or blowing blossoms have encapsulated more than one outdoor air conditioning unit and caused a failure. You do not want to face this issue, you don’t want to experience loss of cooling. You do not want to face the smack to your wallet.

Do you live in such an area?

You might need to take special precautions on your own  to make sure an acute problem does not occur outside of the regular maintenance cycle. There are special options you can consider. There are sensor systems which can tell you when your systems are being stressed and will notify your HVAC service company of a problem. Or you can just be aware of these issues and in the spring, just have an extra eye out for problems here.

Being aware of the possibility is an important step in making sure such a dismal event does not happen to you.

Any questions or comments? Who has an experience to mention? Who has a recommendation? Add your thoughts in the comment section.

Stu Langley

meet the author at StuLangley.com

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