How to Know If the Condenser Is Out on a Central AC Unit?

A condenser is one of the most important elements of an air-conditioning unit.

It is usually located on the outside air portion of the air conditioner. The condenser receives a hot, high-pressure gas from the compressor and cools it, changing it from a gas to a liquid. The liquid then moves into the evaporator and a fan that circulates the air into the house. The process is then repeated. Condensers on a central AC unit can go bad over time and need to be fixed or replaced. There are a few ways to tell if this is happening with your condenser.

Turn off the unit. Remove the protective grill that holds the condenser coils in place with a Phillips head screwdriver. Set it on the ground and clean off the fins of the condenser with a soft brush. Scrub gently to remove any debris.

Vacuum the fins with a vacuum brush attachment. Attach the grill back over the evaporator coils and secure it in place with a screwdriver.

Turn off the thermostat. Reset the power and set the thermostat to turn on the air conditioner. Wait five minutes and then turn it back on and allow it to run for a few minutes. Check the two pipes that connect the condenser to the air handler. If one is warm and the other cool, your unit is working properly.

Turn off the unit again if it still does not work. Remove the grill again. Cover the motor on the inside so it does not get wet. Tape it with plastic sheeting and duct tape or cover it with a garbage bag. Clean the condenser coil on the outside of the air conditioning unit with a garden hose. Spray the entire area with the hose to remove any dirt and debris that may be causing the condenser to malfunction.

Move back and forth about 6 inches from the condenser coils until the entire are has been sprayed. Wait until the unit is dry before turning it back on to check whether it is now working properly. If the problem persists, then the condenser is out and will need to be replaced.

Things You Will Need

  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Soft brush
  • Vacuum attachment
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Duct tape
  • Garden hose

About the Author

Alexander Callos began writing in 2005 for "The Lantern" at The Ohio State University and has written for various websites, including Bleacher Report, Top Ten Real Estate Deals and Columbus Sports. He has published articles for CBS Sports, SI.com and other websites. He graduated in 2007 from The Ohio State University with a bachelor's degree in public affairs journalism.