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Compressor (as the name states), compresses or increases the pressure of a refrigerant and sends it down to the condenser coils. The condenser, in its turn, cools down a hot gas-like refrigerant and condenses it (as the name states again) back into a liquid state.
The AC Condenser
The condenser (also called “hot coils”), rejects the heat that is coming from the compressor and cools down the gas-like refrigerant. In the central (or split) AC setup, both the condenser and compressor are located outside the house.
Here is a good explanation of how the home AC system works:
The condenser is basically a heat exchanger in which the state of refrigerant changes from vapor into a liquid form. Along with the compressor and another important component of the AC system called: “evaporator coil”, hot air from our room is being transformed into a cool breeze that we all enjoy.
Here is a schematic that easily shows the difference between condenser and compressor:
This may be a little confusing, but the word “condenser” is sometimes used to describe the whole outside AC unit (in a split air conditioning system). The actual box, inside of which you will find a condenser, compressor, and other important components, could be easily called a “condenser” or even a “compressor” by some people.
When we are cooling down our room, the air conditioner is NOT creating cold air (like many people think), but moving heat from one place to another. Here is a good explanation of the whole refrigeration cycle:
The air conditioning cycle goes as follows:
- Discharge line
- Condensing coil
- Liquid Line
- Metering Device
- Expansion Line (or Distributor)
- Evaporating Coil
- Suction line
- Back to the Compressor
Here is the same thing in the schematic version:
This basic refrigeration circuit along with compressor and condenser also includes an evaporator coil and a metering device (also called expansion valve). After still pressurized liquid exits a condenser coil, as soon as it hits a metering device, the pressure drops.
There are several types of metering devices and the most common of them are:
- Thermostatic Expansion Valve
- Fixed Orifice (or a piston)
- Electronic Expansion Valve
Refrigerant (still in the liquid state), after leaving the metering device, goes through the expansion line and gets distributed to the different sections of the evaporator coil. This is where the boiling process begins and it will continue to heat up until it turns into vapor.
When the hot air from your room gets absorbed by the evaporator coils, you get nice cool airflow. The hotter the air in your room is, the hotter these coils are going to get.
If you decide that your AC compressor is out of shape and you need a new unit, feel free to check this super quiet Air Conditioner from Goodman (paid link), which is sold on Amazon.
Compressor vs Condenser
Like I mentioned above, these devices serve different purposes. The evaporator coil (or the cooling coil) absorbs high heat coming from your room and the boiling refrigerant inside of it starts turning into steam before it hits the suction line and a compressor.
Hot gas that is coming from the compressor starts to condense and turns into a liquid in a condenser (or the condensing coil). Then, the cycle repeats itself.
The whole refrigeration cycle is based on natural principles like sending the compressed air outside because of the temperature difference. As the fan blows across the condenser coils, the heat dissipates and the refrigerant starts to condensate.
The direction in which refrigerant flows is also guided by a natural difference in pressure:
A compressor and a condenser are completely different devices that serve different purposes. The only common thing they share is that they are a part of an air conditioning or refrigeration system.
The AC Compressor
The AC compressor is a pump that spreads refrigerant throughout the air conditioning system. Its job is to compress a very hot gas-like refrigerant (that leaves the evaporator coil) and raise its temperature even more.
Here is a good video on compressor basics:
It does so by increasing its pressure (and anything under pressure has a tendency to get really hot). Because of the temperature difference, the gas-like (or vapor) refrigerant will move to its designated destination (or the condenser coil).
As the heat releases into the outside air, refrigerant (as it goes down the condenser coil) starts slowly turning into its original liquid state. Condenser basics explained very well here:
Compressor (along with condenser) is located inside your outdoor AC unit:
And generally looks like this:
Here is a high-rated compressor Protech ZR42K5E-PFV-800 found on Amazon (paid link).