Difference Between Compressor And Condenser In Air Conditioning

Summers feel hotter every year, so it’s no surprise that 90 percent of Americans rely on air conditioning to help them through the heat. But while almost everyone relies on their smooth functioning throughout the season, not many know what’s going on behind the scenes.

Knowing your air conditioner is essential if you want to properly maintain it and spot problems when they occur.

The compressor and condenser in an air conditioning system are the two most important components to cooling your home. These components make up the outdoor part of the central and split systems. In this article, we’ll explain the difference between a compressor and a condenser to help you understand how they work to keep your home cool.

Basic Air Conditioning Process

An air conditioning system has four basic components:




Expansion valve

These parts exist in circuits connected by tubes filled with refrigerant. A refrigerant is a heat transfer system, a unique fluid that switches between liquid and vapor depending on its location in the system.

Starting with the evaporator, the refrigerant absorbs heat from the evaporator coil as warm household air passes through it. Then blow the cooled air back into the house.

The warm vapor moves to the compressor, which increases the pressure of the refrigerant and pumps it to the condenser coil. The condenser coil releases heat to the outside air and the refrigerant cools down.

The refrigerant leaves the condenser and flows to the expansion valve. The expansion system decompresses the refrigerant, making it a cold, low-pressure liquid. The liquid then moves back to the evaporator, ready to absorb more heat and start the whole process all over again.

What is an AC Compressor?

The compressor works with the condenser in the air conditioning unit to release heat into the outdoor air. Its job is to pressurize the refrigerant.

This process not only adds heat to the refrigerant but also pumps the fluid through the system. You can think of the compressor as the heart of your air conditioning system.

How does the Compressor Work?

A compressor is a metal vessel with two openings, one for sucking in refrigerant from the evaporator and the other for discharging pressurized refrigerant to the condenser coil.

There are several different types of A/C compressors. The most common are reciprocating compressors.

In a reciprocating compressor, the piston moves up and down inside the cylinder when the device is turned on. As it moves down and opens up the space in the chamber, it creates suction and draws in the warm refrigerant.

The piston then moves back up to the cylinder, reducing the gas volume, and thereby compressing the gas. Once the gas reaches a certain pressure level, the discharge valve opens and pressurized fluid is injected into the condenser coil.

Why Do Refrigerants Need to Be Compressed?

When the gas is pressurized, it generates heat, which is essential for the condenser to work. Refrigerant works through heat exchange in which it tries to equilibrate its temperature with the surrounding air.

If the air is cooler than the refrigerant, the refrigerant will dissipate heat into the air and cool it down. Since we use air conditioners in the summer, the outside air will be hot, which means the refrigerant needs to be hotter.

There is not enough heat transferred from the domestic air in the evaporator coil to make the refrigerant hotter than the outdoor air. By pressurizing the vapor, the compressor builds up energy in the refrigerant and makes it very hot. Even if you’re trying to stay cool in 100-degree Fahrenheit weather, the compressor ensures that the refrigerant is always hotter than the outside air.

After leaving the compressor, the refrigerant enters the condenser, where the cooling process begins.

What is a Condenser in an Air Conditioning System?

The term “condenser” broadly refers to the outdoor metal box that houses the condenser coils, fins, outdoor fans, and compressors. It is called a condenser because here the refrigerant condenses back to a liquid, while in the evaporator it becomes a gas.

The condenser coil wraps around the perimeter of the box. It’s hard to see because it’s hidden behind a huge network of thin, fragile metal fins that make up the cell walls.

How did the Condenser Work?

The refrigerant in the copper condenser coil needs to be cooled by heat exchange with the outside air. The temperature difference between the two is enough to start the process, but the condenser coil has two important helpers – metal fins and an outdoor fan.

Outdoor fans help release heat by supplying a constant supply of cool air to the condenser coils. At the same time, the metal fins conduct heat from the copper condenser tubes.

There are hundreds of fins around the walls of the condenser unit, creating a huge surface area. They expose the heat of the refrigerant to the outside air, providing more points for the heat exchange process to function.

With a powerful fan blowing cool air and the fan’s large surface area transferring more heat, the condenser effectively cools the refrigerant.

Maintain Your Condenser

When heat sinks or fans aren’t working properly, you’ll find that the air entering your home isn’t as cold as it should be. The refrigerant cannot be cooled effectively. Therefore, the liquid entering the evaporator has no significant temperature difference from the incoming indoor air, nor does it absorb as much heat.

If the system blows warm air, check that the condenser fan is turning. If not, there may be a problem with your motor. If you feel there is a problem with your motor or compressor, please contact a service technician.

While you may need professional intervention for mechanical problems, you can clean the condenser coils to keep the fins clean. By removing dust and debris, the fins are not insulated from the outside air and can transfer heat more efficiently. The refrigerant will cool more and your evaporator will be able to extract more heat from the air in your home.

Keep an Eye on Your Compressors and Condensers

Summers are getting hotter, so your air conditioner must work as efficiently as possible. Now that you understand how the compressors and condensers in your air conditioning unit cool your home, you’ll be able to handle seasonal maintenance with more confidence.

The above briefly introduces the difference between air conditioner compressors and condensers. If you want to buy air conditioner accessories, please contact us.

ComforPlanet is a professional custom air conditioning parts manufacturer. Our products are suitable for many industries, including HVAC, electrical smart small appliances, etc. ComforPlanet is committed to providing you with safe, high-quality, long-lasting HVAC and cost-effective products that allow everyone around the world to breathe clean, comfortable indoor air.

Scroll to Top
GDPR Cookie Consent with Real Cookie Banner