3 Key Functions of an Air Conditioner’s Condenser
Air conditioners rely on a number of different components in order to effectively cool your home. The condenser is one of the most important such components. Unfortunately, it is also one of the least understood. This lack of understanding stems from the fact that a condenser accomplishes several different tasks as it runs.
The more you know about how your air conditioning system works, the better you will be able to recognize potential problems. If you would like to learn more about the components inside of your air conditioner, read on. This article will introduce you to the three key jobs performed by an air conditioner’s condenser.
Refrigerant exits your evaporator coil as a gas, having absorbed heat from inside of your home. This gaseous refrigerant then enters the compressor, which packs it more tightly together, increasing its temperature in the process. The condenser’s job involves lowering the refrigerant’s temperature enough for it to transform back into a liquid.
The first task a condenser must accomplish goes by the name of desuperheating. To understand desuperheating, you must first understand the related concept known as saturation temperature. Saturation temperature refers to the boiling point of a liquid at a given pressure. Once the liquid reaches its saturation temperature, it begins turning into a gas.
When the temperature of a gas continues to rise beyond its saturation temperature, the gas is said to be in a superheated state. An air conditioner’s refrigerant exists in a superheated state as it flows out of the compressor to the condenser. Superheated refrigerant must be cooled back down to its saturation temperature before it can be condensed into a liquid.
This initial cooling process goes by the name of desuperheating. The gaseous refrigerant passes through the condenser as many times as needed in order to reject its superheat.
Once all of a refrigerant superheat has been rejected, the actual process of condensation may begin. Condensation involves the transformation of the gaseous refrigerant into its liquid state. The mechanics of this operation remain the same as in desuperheating — in other words, the refrigerant continues to circulate through the condenser in multiple passes.
As the refrigerant flows through the condenser, the condenser’s multitude of fins allow heat to transfer to the surrounding air. A fan on top of the condenser unit ensures that this heated air cools off quickly, enabling the process to continue. As the refrigerant’s temperature lowers beneath its saturation temperature, it automatically begins transforming into a liquid.
After all of the refrigerant has converted to a liquid state, it is said to be a fully saturated liquid. At this point, however, the refrigerant will still be quite volatile. Even a small temperature increase will cause part of it to shift back to a gas. This places a severe limitation on the potential cooling that the refrigerant can achieve.
The condenser increases the effectiveness of the refrigerant by continuing to cool it beyond its saturation temperature. This process, known as subcooling, improves the stability of the refrigerant. As a result, the refrigerant will be sure to remain a liquid on its continued journey back to the evaporator coil in your home.
All air conditioners have a pre-determined subcooling limit. As the system ages, however, wear and tear will make it harder and harder time cooling the refrigerant to this level. Consequently, your system’s efficiency will go down. Fortunately, you can ensure ideal functionality by having your system regularly serviced and maintained.
For more information about what it takes to keep your condenser working at peak capacity, please don’t hesitate to contact the cooling professionals at C.B. Lucas.