Apr 08 2015

The more you know about how your air conditioning system works, the better you’ll be able to communicate with your HVAC professional when the equipment needs maintenance or repair. Two of the most important but most easily misunderstood components of your AC are the evaporator coils and the condenser coils. Here’s a brief introduction to air conditioner function and a description of the way AC evaporator and condenser coils contribute to home cooling.

A/C evaporator and condenser coilsAir Conditioner Function

At their most basic, air conditioners remove heat from a particular space and provide cooling that makes your living environment comfortable. Central air conditioners consist of an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. The indoor unit contains components such as the AC evaporator, the evaporator coils and the heat exchanger. The outdoor unit houses the compressor, the condenser and the condenser coils. The indoor and outdoor units are connected by electrical cables, an expansion valve, and by a copper pipes that contain a refrigerant. These pipes are connected to both the AC evaporator and condenser coils. All elements work together to create the cooling you expect from your A/C equipment.

At the beginning of a cooling cycle, low-pressure refrigerant in the evaporator coils changes from a liquid to a gas. During this change, the refrigerant absorbs heat from your indoor environment. The coils become cool, and the air handler blows air over the cold coils, producing cooling for inside your home.

The gaseous refrigerant then moves through the connecting pipes and into the condenser coils in the outdoor unit. The compressor increases pressure on the gaseous refrigerant, causing it to change back into a liquid form. As it shifts states, the gas gives off the heat it contains and disperses it into the air outside. The liquid refrigerant flows back inside and through an expansion valve that reduces the pressure on it. At a lowered pressure, the liquid refrigerant once again changes into a gas, and the cooling cycle begins again.

Evaporator Coils and What They Do

Evaporator coils facilitate heat absorption from indoor spaces. They’re usually made of copper — a material that provides easy heat transfer. Coils may also be equipped with additional fins or vanes that increase the surface area for heat capture or release. Evaporator coils are specially designed to hold the refrigerant that’s necessary to heat transfer and release. They’re sturdy enough to withstand the changes in internal pressure that occur as the refrigerant travels between the indoor and outdoor units.

You may also notice that water forms on the AC evaporator coils. This liquid will be safely collected in drain pans and allowed to flow away.

Condenser Coils and What They Do

Condenser coils are responsible for dispersing the heat that’s been collected from your indoor environment. Like evaporator coils, they’re usually made of copper with fins or vanes, which makes the heat dispersal more efficient. The outdoor components may also include a fan that blows on the coils to improve heat dispersal. When in operation, condenser coils are likely to be hot, so they should be avoided to prevent possible burn injuries.

Keeping Coils Clean

To get the best performance out of AC evaporator and condenser coils, they should be kept clean and free of dirt and material that could interfere with the heat transfer that makes them work. In addition to decreased effectiveness of heat transfer, dirty coils can lead to problems such as:

  • Decreased air conditioner cooling capacity
  • Increased energy consumption by the cooling system
  • Extra wear and tear on the air conditioner system, which can cause damage, malfunctions or shortened equipment life span
  • Buildup of ice on coil

To keep AC evaporator and condenser coils clean, access the coils through the appropriate panels on the indoor and outdoor units. Wipe the coils clean of dust, dirt and other buildup using a soft cloth or brush. You can also spray a commercial cleaner on the coils to help break up dirt and make cleaning easier. Compressed air can be used in some situations to loosen and remove large pieces of debris. Coil inspection and cleaning should be part of regular preventive maintenance performed by your HVAC specialist.

Learn more about AC evaporator and condenser coils from the pros at All American Heating and Cooling, or give us a call today at 941-479-6060 to schedule an appointment.

Image Provided by Shutterstock.com

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