The Importance of a Clean Condenser

Posted by Cheolwon Byeon on

About the condenser

Condensers are a critical part of an AC system. Unfortunately, they are easily damaged due to the thin metal fins in their design. Every AC system includes a condenser, which takes in warm refrigerant vapor discharged from the compressor and outputs hot refrigerant liquid. The refrigerant vapor and liquid flows through a series of small tubes that run in rows through the condensor. The image below is a cross section of a condensor and shows the tubes.

 

 

The state change from vapor to liquid releases a lot of heat, which is dissipated by air flowing over the condenser. The image below shows the fins over which the air flows to remove heat from the condenser.

 

Over time, the condensor may become damaged and will begin to restric the airflow, which is required to remove heat from the condenser. With heat unable to be removed, the condensation process will become less efficient, and the compressor will be strained or damaged. Therefore, it is important to maintain a condenser with good airflow to ensure that the entire AC system is running smoothly. The image below compares a new condenser with good airflow to an old condenser with poor air flow. Once the condensor begins to look similar to the condenser on the right, it is time for it to be replaced.

 

Condenser design

The image below shows four different condenser designs suited for different applications. Each will be reviewed and explained below.1.

  1. Tube and Fin Design - This tube and fin condenser has copper tubes that are approximately 3/8” in diameter. It has smooth fin design spaced 8 to 16 per inch. This style condenser is more suited for harsh environments. By design, it is less likely to plug internally and can be flushed to remove contaminants.
  2. 6mm Tube and Fin Design - This is also a tube and fin style condenser. However, it is made of aluminum tubes that are smaller in diameter. It has a louvered/rippled fin design. These are spaced anywhere from 8 to 16 fins per inch. This condenser is more likely to plug externally in harsh environments due to the fin design. It is less likely to plug internally and in most cases can be flushed to remove any contaminants.
  3. Serpentine Style Condenser - This has flat tubes that run continuously back and forth throughout the condenser. This was first developed to be used with R12 Freon. This design typically does very well at dissipating heat but cannot be serviced. This means it cannot be flushed if the system would ever have contamination. They are also not designed to handle harsh environments due to having a higher fin count.
  4. Parallel/Multi Flow Style Condenser – This condenser has flat tubes like the serpentine style. These flat tubes are connected to the tubes/manifolds on each end. The flat tube makes 2-4 passes throughout the condenser core. The Parallel/Multi Flow design is very efficient. However, it cannot be serviced due to the design of flat tubes with very small openings. If ony one small tube were to become obstructed it severely decreases the efficiency, oil and refrigerant circulation. It cannot be flushed if the system would ever have contamination. It must be replaced. Because of the higher fin count design, this condenser does not work well in off-road/harsh environments.

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