Refrigeration Condensers: Functions, Types & Maintenance

In this article, I will share with you the functions, maintenance and types of refrigeration condensers.


If you know the working principle of the condensers then you have an idea of how important they are in the refrigeration system.


You might like this: Vapour Absorption Refrigeration System: Working Principle and Vapour Compression Refrigeration System: Components And Working Principle


The refrigeration condensers are made of long coiled tubes that carry the refrigerant to be cooled.


The long coiled tubes increase the surface area for heat exchange.


There is nothing unique about refrigeration condensers except for the fact that they are very essential in cooling the refrigerant coming from the compressor and changing its phase from gas to liquid.


Without refrigeration condensers, the refrigeration cycle will not be complete.


So, the condensers also complement the path of the refrigeration cycle.


Types of refrigeration condensers;

The refrigeration condensers are of three types namely;

  1. Air-cooled condensers.
  2. Water-cooled condensers.
  3. Evaporative condensers.


1. Air-cooled condensers.

Air-cooled condensers are mostly used in domestic refrigeration systems.


They work by the principle of natural convection to transfer the heat from the refrigerant to the environment.


These condensers are usually placed at the back of the refrigerator cabinet so that it allows proper circulation of air.


If the air circulated is obstructed in any way the condenser will be ineffective.


To increase the efficiency of the condenser a fan may be installed on the condenser side.


This will facilitate the heat transfer from the condenser to the environment.


Advantages of using air-cooled condensers.

These are the advantages of using air-cooled condensers;

  1. They are cheap to purchase and they are easily available when needed.
  2. They are compact and this makes it very easy when it comes to their installation.
  3. With air-cooled condensers, the heat is directly transferred to the atmosphere so there is no problem with hot air disposal when using it.
  4. The maintenance of the air-cooled condenser is easy due to its compact design and the few parts it has. Cleaning the dust or gummy matters isn’t hard in these condensers.
  5. The fact that air-cooled condensers use air to cool the refrigerant its leakage doesn’t contaminate the refrigerant or the environment.


Disadvantages of using air-cooled condensers.

These are the disadvantages of using air-cooled condensers;

  1. Air-cooled condensers are very noisy due to the fan that is installed, especially if it’s unmaintained.
  2. The air-cooled condensers need constant maintenance due to the fan that is used.
  3. Air-cooled condensers are only used in low-capacity refrigeration systems.
  4. The air-cooled condenser provides uneven distribution of air and that is why it’s only used in low-capacity refrigeration.


2. Water-cooled condensers.

Water-cooled condensers use water to provide the cooling of the refrigerant from the compressor hence the name.


Water-cooled condensers are divided into three categories;

  1. Double tube condenser.
  2. Shell and coil condenser.
  3. Shell and tube condenser.


Advantages of using water-cooled condensers

These are the advantages of using water-cooled condensers;

  1. Water-cooled condensers provide a higher cooling efficiency since water is used to transfer that heat directly from the refrigerant.
  2. Water-cooled condensers are suitable for operating large refrigeration systems since they provide a higher cooling efficiency.
  3. The other amazing thing about water-cooled condensers is that they don’t produce noise during operation which makes them very conducive to being used in hospital lobbies and patient rooms.
  4. The size of the compressor used in the water-cooled condenser is small thus saving money on the big compressor pieces of equipment.
  5. Since water-cooled condensers provide a higher cooling efficiency this makes them preferable in low condensing temperatures.


Disadvantages of using water-cooled condensers

Despite the amazing features of water-cooled condensers here are some of their limitations;

  1. The initial cost of these water-cooled condensers is very high compared to air-cooled or evaporative condensers.
  2. Leaving the cost of purchase out of the question, the maintenance of these condensers is required constantly which adds to the cost of their operation.
  3. The complex control units of these condensers make them harder to operate, skilled operators are needed to operate these condensers.
  4. The fact that these water-cooled condensers use water to cool the refrigerant they are prone to corrosion.
  5. The water-cooled condenser requires a large amount of water to operate, and an additional recirculation system will need to be used.
  6. Water-cooled condensers occupy a large space and this makes them disadvantageous in some areas of applications.


3. Evaporative condenser.

These are condensers that work on the principle of evaporation to provide the cooling effect. Water is sprayed on the hot coils of the condenser which will evaporate resulting in the cooling effect of the refrigerant.


A fan is installed to blow air on the condenser coil so which increases the evaporation rate of water being sprayed on the condenser.


This type of condenser used less energy compared to air-cooled condensers.  The other advantage of the condenser is that they reduce the compressor workload thus improving the efficiency of the refrigeration system.


Maintenance of the refrigeration condensers;

These are some of the practices involved in maintaining the refrigeration condensers;

Check, lubricate and cleaning of the fan bearing; the fan bearings should be sufficiently lubricated to improve their rotation.


The efficiency of the air-cooled condenser mainly depends on the capacity of the fan. If the fan fails to work then the air condenser will not work.


One should clean the fan and ensure that nothing is preventing the fan from rotating freely.


Cleaning of the condenser cooling fins; the cooling fins of the condenser should be cleaned whenever they are dirty.


The heat transfer from the refrigerant to the environment will not work effectively if the cooling fins will be covered with dirt.


Check for loose bolts, and nuts and tighten them; you should ensure that the condenser is well tightened to prevent any noise and interference with the movement of the refrigerant.


Tightening the condenser will keep it in a suitable position and this will enhance heat transfer thus increasing the efficiency of the condenser.


Check the v-belts, adjust their tightening or replace them if they are worn out; this is something else you should do to ensure that the condenser is working effectively.


If the v-belts used to run the fan are worn out then you will have to replace them since this directly interferes with the speed of the fan.


When they are loose they should be tightened to prevent them from slipping.


This is all about condensers, if you have any questions leave your comment.


Thanks for reading, see you in my next article.


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  3. Vapour Compression Refrigeration System: Components And Working Principle
  4. Thermodynamic Properties Of Refrigerants
  5. Ventilation System: Purpose, Types, Working Principle And Maintenance

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