What is an Air Conditioning Condenser, and How Do I Maintain it?


The condenser of your air conditioning system is the large bulky unit that stays outside. It contains a number of important parts, such as a compressor, a fan, tubing, and cooling fins. If any of these parts are damaged, blocked by debris, or are otherwise malfunctioning, your air conditioning might stop working—and worse, a broken or malfunctioning part could lead to more expensive damage throughout the rest of your system.

Needless to say, it’s important to maintain your AC condenser if you’re at all interested in the cost-saving benefits of preventative maintenance!

While we recommend you have us come out at least once a year to provide annual maintenance for your HVAC system—proper maintenance over time can save you thousands of dollars—doing the basics of maintaining your air conditioning system’s condenser unit is pretty easy to do all on your own.

In today’s post, we’ll go over everything you need to do to maintain your condenser. This can be done at any time of year, but doing it once in the beginning of summer and then again at the end of summer will yield the best results.

Before maintaining your condenser or any other part of your HVAC system, make sure that the electricity to the unit is shut off, which you can probably do at your main electrical panel. But don’t take any chances! If you’re not sure how to disable the power, get in touch with a professional.

Let’s get started:

Clean Up the Surrounding Area & Condenser Coils

If it’s been a while since you’ve inspected your condenser, it’s possible that grass and weeds might have cropped up around it. Clearing them out of the way won’t just make it easier for you to access the condenser to maintain it; you’ll also be improving airflow for the unit.

After opening the unit, you should be able to see the coils. If they look dirty or if debris has built up, gently brush it away and use a commercial coil cleaning solution, which you can find at most hardware stores that have refrigerant supplies. Follow the instructions for the coil cleaning solution.

Next, you’ll want to examine the cooling fins:

Look for Bent Cooling Fins & Straighten Them Out

Examine the cooling fins in the condenser. The fins are the thin little sheets of metal, all bunched up very closely together—but not touching. If some have been bent or mashed together (which is pretty common and frankly not hard to accidentally do), then there’s an easy fix: get out a butter knife and gently but firmly bend them back into place.

For more details on fixing bent cooling fins, read our article 3 Lesser-Known Air Conditioner Repairs You DON’T Have to Hire Out For—And 1 Where You Definitely Need a Pro.

Remove the Top Grill & Clean the Fan & Fins

Most condensers will have a grill covering the fan. Removing this grill will give you access to the fan and the cooling fins. Remove the fan so that it can be cleaned—spraying it down with a hose and then wiping it off with a rag is a fine way to do so. You can also spray the hose through the cooling fins from the inside of the condenser out, but be sure that the water pressure isn’t too high, otherwise you may bend the fins.

If you have a shop vacuum with a brush attachment handy, this is also a good way to clean the fins. Gently brush them while running the fan to remove dirt and debris.

Check Tubing & Connections, Then Reassemble

This is a pretty easy step: take a look at all the tubing throughout the condenser and make sure that there are no obvious leaks or signs of damage. Pay special attention to where the tubing meets the condenser. If everything looks as it should be, reassemble the condenser, turn the power back on, and turn on your thermostat to make sure everything is functioning normally. Congratulations, you’ve just completed maintenance on your condenser!

When You Need a Pro, We’re Here to Help

With over four decades of experience in the HVAC business, our team of experts are standing by and ready to help you with all of your HVAC needs in Northern Colorado. Please feel free to schedule a service appointment or call us at (970) 218-0414.

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