AC Not Working? What You Should Know About The Condenser Coil And Compressor

If your air conditioner stops operating, you may clean the evaporator coil and change the air filter in the indoor unit to fix the issue. But if these steps don't work, you might want to look outdoors for the problem. Your outdoor unit is the main component for your air conditioning system. It consists of a host of parts that keep the system operational, including the condenser coil and compressor. The condenser coil and compressor can both fail if heat can't eject from the system. Here are more things to know about the condenser coil and compressor and what you can do to solve your problem.

Why Are the Condenser Coil and Compressor So Important?

condenser coil plays an essential role in cooling your home because it removes and ejects heat from the unit's refrigerant. The coil also turns gas refrigerant into a liquid as it cools down the substance. The condenser coil looks similar to a large, metallic sheet that wraps around the body of the unit. A metal frame featuring thin, blade-like vents protect the coil from physical damage. But over time, small particles of dirt and dust can pass through the vents and affect the coil's fins.

Fins are tiny, aluminum pieces that cover the entire surface of the coil. If the fins build up with debris, they won't allow heat to eject out of the coil. Condenser coil fins can bend, break or warp as well, which can also contribute to poor performance. Instead, heat builds up inside the coil and inadvertently cause problems for the compressor motor.

The compressor is the lifeblood of your AC system. It receives hot refrigerant gas from the indoor unit's evaporator coil and sends it to the condenser coil for processing. If the condenser coil can't eject the heat it receives, it can't transform refrigerant gas into a liquid. The heat backs up inside the compressor until it or its internal parts overheat or fail. Your AC will most likely stop working as a result.

You can try to solve your AC's problem with the right tips.

What Can You Do to Solve Your Issue?

The first thing you can do is clean the condenser coil and its fins. Removing debris from these parts might restart your cooling system. You'll need to gather a few tools and supplies for the job, including a:

  1. gallon-sized bucket of water filled with mild, liquid soap detergent
  2. large cleaning cloth or two
  3. garden hose with adjustable nozzle
  4. fin comb or brush from your local home and gardening store
  5. manual or electric screwdriver 

Before you begin, disconnect power to the outdoor unit at the power box located on the siding near it, as well as at the main circuit breaker. Even if your system isn't working right now, it may still discharge electrical currents that may shock and harm you. You'll need to discharge the power component for the compressor, or capacitor, as well. Because AC units and systems can differ in how they function and operate, read your cooling system's homeowner's manual and follow the steps completely to discharge the capacitor.

After you ensure that the unit is safe to work around, follow the steps below:

  1. Use your screwdriver to remove the frame that covers the condenser coil. Use your garden hose to wash down the frame, then set it upright against the home's siding to dry.
  2. Set your garden hose's nozzle on slow speed, then gently clean the condenser coil until you can clearly see the metallic gleam of the fins.
  3. Use your fin tool to gently and carefully "comb or brush" through the fins. You want to straighten out the fins as much as possible. 
  4. Wet your towel, then wipe down as much of the unit's surface as you can. Replace the frame.
  5. Allow the coil and its fins at least 30 minutes to dry. The time will vary, so monitor the parts for dryness.

Return power to the cooling system, then wait for it to start up. If the system starts up and cools the house, you solved the issue.

If the system doesn't start as it normally would if it didn't have problems, turn it off and contact an air conditioning repair service for help. There may be other issues you need to fix in the system.