The Difference between Evaporator Coil and Condenser Coil

As an important part of the heat pump system, evaporator and condenser play a vital role. So do you know the difference between the two of them?
The evaporator is like a heat-absorbing “sponge”, absorbing heat from the outdoor air and transferring it to the refrigerant, causing the refrigerant to evaporate into a gas. And the condenser acts like a “heat source”, releasing heat into the room and filling your house with warmth. More about the difference between evaporator and condenser you can read in this post.

Condenser and evaporator coils are typically associated with wholesale heat pumps. Basically, all ACs with refrigerants feature evaporator and condenser coils, enabling them to carry out cooling and heating tasks as necessary.

The evaporator coil traps heat present in the air within a room, carrying it to the condenser coil that is placed outside via a refrigerant for external release. The high-pressure, high-temperature refrigerant then reverts back to a liquid and flows back inside the house for another cycle. Herein is everything that you need to know about condenser vs evaporator coils in detail. Here’s a look.

Evaporator Coil

An HVAC evaporator coil is a series of fins and tubes containing a low-boiling refrigerant to capture heat from warm indoor air as it flows over the fins.

As soon as the refrigerant absorbs heat, it’s obviously converted into a gaseous state. The next stage involves compression to force the refrigerant to attain high levels of temperature and pressure so it can absorb even more heat from the air.

Condenser Coil

What is a heat pump condenser? A condenser coil is a device into which the high-temperature, high-pressure refrigerant flows to release heat to the surroundings and revert back to a liquid.

The liquid refrigerant then flows into the expansion valve, losing part of its temperature and pressure as it prepares to flow into the evaporator coil for another cycle of cooling.

Difference between Condenser and Evaporator Coil Design

The way the evaporator coils are made enhances good contact between the refrigerant and the hot air inside. Basically, it comprises thin tubular coils wrapped with fins. The refrigerant is supported by the tubes, while at the same time the fins assist in air circulation air across the surface. The materials used for both the tubes and fins is typically aluminum or copper because these conduct heat excellently.

In contrast, condenser coils are typically massive structures, with tubes and fins that exceed those of evaporator coils by far. But of course, the building material is the same. There’s no better material than aluminum or copper.

Location of Evaporator and Condenser Coils in HVAC Systems

Since the evaporator coil work is to get rid of excess heat from the house, it’s placed inside. In contrast, the condenser coil is set outside. This allows the AC system to perform the above-mentioned cycle of heat absorption, evaporation, compression, and condensation in a continuous manner.

The Difference in Working Principle between Evaporator and Condenser Coils

As you might’ve already learned above, condenser and evaporator coils differ in the way they move heat. The evaporator coil takes heat from the air inside the building and transfers it outside, where the evaporator coil releases the heat in the surrounding air, essentially completing the cooling sequence.

This is only possible due to the difference in refrigerator pressure and temperature at both coils. It starts at a low temperature and pressure in the indoor coil, allowing it to capture heat, evaporate, undergo compression, capture more heat, and flow into the outdoor unit coil to dissipate the heat and become a liquid again.

Importance of Evaporator Coil

The evaporator coil is designed to cool a room. Without this coil air source heat pumps wouldn’t even start to work. As mentioned, this coil has a refrigerant that absorbs heat from warm indoor air, transferring it outside for ejection. The resulting cool air then circulates back into the room.

Benefits of the Condenser Coil

The condenser coil accomplishes everything that was started by the indoor coil, enhancing better conditions suitable for the release of heat. Basically, once the refrigerant absorbs heat from the air passing over the evaporator coil, it evaporates, but then it enters the compressor, which increases its temperature and pressure, expanding its ability to absorb heat further.

In the end, the refrigerant vapor that is at high temperature and also high pressure enters the condenser coil, loses much pressure, and frees the absorbed heat into the area.

Evaporator Coil vs Condenser Coil: Efficiency Impact

The performance of both types of coils significantly affects the efficiency of air source heat pumps. That said, the coil with a greater impact on the system’s efficiency is the evaporator coil. This is simply because it takes quite a lot of energy to absorb heat from the indoor air and cool a room.

On the contrary, the condenser coil assists with the distribution of heat, which isn’t too much energy-demanding in regards to the absorption of heat. Therefore, the condenser coil performance has a low impact on the efficiency of the system.

But in any case, the efficiency of your AC system is mainly dependent on the heat transfer rate, which in turn depends on:

● Coil Surface area. Simply, coils with larger surface area are able to absorb or dispel more heat.

● Coil material. As mentioned, copper and aluminum are the number one coil building materials because of their excellent thermal conductivity. Any other material will result in less heat transfer.

● Fin design. Fins help increase surface area for heat absorption, so it’s best they are designed with the shape and spacing that maximizes surface area for heat transfer.

● Airflow. Ensuring there are no clogs in the ductwork or dirt on coils will ensure sufficient airflow for optimal cooling.

● Refrigerant charge. Basically, you want to avoid an undercharged system because the amount of refrigerant in the coils affects cooling capacity and efficiency. Regularly check your evaporator coil to ensure it contains an adequate amount of refrigerant.

● Coil cleanliness. As mentioned, dirt, debris, and dust hinder efficient heat transfer from the air to the refrigerant and vice versa. Dirt, and dust insulate coils when you don’t need that, effectively reducing heat transfer and system efficiency. Regularly check your ductwork and AC coils for dirt, debris, and clogging that would otherwise reduce performance.

Difference between Condenser and Evaporator Maintenance

As already mentioned, maintaining clean and well-charged AC coils ensures optimal heat transfer and improved efficiency. That’s because removing unwanted insulation from coils and ensuring proper refrigerant charge enables the coils to absorb and dissipate heat without straining or consuming extra energy.

On the other hand, if you neglect your heat pump, you are basically condemning it to strain to absorb and dispel heat via insulated coils and fins. This will not only reduce the efficiency of your inverter heat pump but also raise your energy bill.  So, prioritize heat pump maintenance, alright.

How to Care for the Evaporator Coil

Always inspect your heat pumps evaporator coils regularly. Inspect for signs of mold, mildew, dirt and, debris, and other contaminants that threaten optimal AC performance and human health. You can use a soft brush to remove dirt from coils and fins and a vacuum for stubborn debris. In case of mold and, mildew or stubborn grime, use a commercial cleaning solution and rinse the coils thoroughly.

While at it, check the condensate drain pan for water. This is where condensed air vapor accumulates when it comes in contact with cool surfaces. Remove accumulated water to prevent water damage in your system.

Also, remove any blockages from the condensate drain line. You can simply vacuum the clogs away or use a plumber’s snake. Clean the drain line with a diluted bleach solution to remove mold or mildew.

Schedule annual inspections with professionals. Your AC system should be checked by a professional at least once a year to identify any potential issues and replace worn out filters as per the manufacturer’s instructions. In case you suspect unusual performance or refrigerant leaks, have the issue fixed and the refrigerant replenished.

How to Maintain Condenser Coil

Caring for AC condenser coils is not that different from the above-mentioned tips on evaporator coil maintenance. Perform regular cleaning to remove dirt, debris and other contaminants.

Remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Start by turning off the power, clean loose dirt and debris, vacuum away any stubborn clogs, and use a commercial cleaning solution to remove mold and mildew, then rinse thoroughly. Don’t turn the power back on unless the coil is completely dry, or the moisture will just attract dirt.

Schedule professional inspections to identify and fix any potential issues before they escalate. Also, carry out preventive measures. As outlined, the condenser coil is situated in the outdoor unit, so ensuring the vicinity area is clean is essential. That means trimming vegetation, installing a protective screen to keep dirt and debris away, and carrying out regular inspections for signs of leaking refrigerant.

By following the above-mentioned tips, you can keep the coils of your AC clean and in good shape. Of course, the advantage is optimal performance and reduced power consumption. Plus, it’ll keep the system from overworking and quitting on you sooner than expected.


That’s everything you need to know about AC evaporator vs condenser coils. But remember, not all AC coils are created equal. If you are looking for AC systems with superior evaporator and condenser coils, we would love to introduce you to our products. We are a trusted air source heat pump supplier with clients worldwide.  Go ahead, give us a call, or send us an email to learn more.


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