What is the Difference Between an AC Condenser and Evaporator Coil?

An evaporator coil is responsible for absorbing heat and a condenser coil releases heat. Each coil is located in a different place in your HVAC system. Your evaporator coil picks up heat from inside your home and cools it while your condenser coil collects that extra heat and releases it through your outside unit. Both parts differ in function, but work together to support the cooling of your home.

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Why You Should Know the Difference

Your systems work together like a finely tuned machine. When it gets hot and your air conditioner is off to the races, you want to be able to count on your system to work properly. Sometimes, the best answer to keep your system in check is understanding what’s going on inside. So when your HVAC technician asks if you think it's a coil problem, it's good to know what he means to save you both time and money.

Hot To Trot

The chemical refrigerant is the liquid that cycles through your AC unit — the star of any air conditioner’s show. This chemical is responsible for absorbing heat from the air in your home by changing from liquid to gas under pressure and then back again while moving over your coils. And ta-da! You’ve got cool air.

Your evaporator coil comes first in this process, converting liquid refrigerant to gas to cool it. Then the hot air inside your home moves through your evaporator coil, which cools the air that gets released into your home — it's that chilly blast on a hot summer day.

While your indoor unit is dispersing cold air, the refrigerant gas cycles through your system to your condenser coil. Your condenser coil compresses that hot gas as it moves through and turns it back to liquid form. As the refrigerant converts back to liquid, heat is expelled through your outdoor unit.

Why the Difference Matters

While your coils may have two different jobs, they function in similar ways and each deserves the attention of an HVAC technician at your yearly maintenance check. Because each coil is located in a different part of your system, each will show different signs of trouble. Detecting a bad evaporator coil will look different than signs of a bad condenser coil.

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