Condenser vs Compressor vs Evaporator

The basic components of a refrigeration system are the condenser, compressor, and evaporator. The condenser is where heat is taken away from the system to be released outside. 

The compressor pumps refrigerant through the system and compresses it into a high-pressure stream, allowing for more efficient heat transfer. The evaporator absorbs heat from within the room or space being cooled and releases it into the atmosphere outside of it.

The Condenser

A condenser is essentially a heat exchanger. It’s where the refrigerant evaporates from a liquid state into a gas, removing heat from within the system. You can think of it as an air conditioner that pumps warm air outside instead of cool air inside.

The condenser works by transferring heat from the refrigerant to the outdoor environment through a process called evaporation. The compressor pumps pressurized refrigerant into the condenser, where it enters through an inlet port and passes over one or more tubes filled with coolant. 

The refrigerant absorbs heat from inside the cooler and loses pressure as it expands into a gas. This causes it to evaporate into droplets that are carried out through an outlet port.

As the refrigerant leaves the condenser tube, it passes over fins protruding from another tube containing coolant flowing in the opposite direction (hot gas rises). These fins act as ‘heat exchangers’ by transferring heat from the outside air to cool down before returning to the refrigerator chamber. There are three types of condensers: 

Auto Condensers 

Air conditioning condensers are used on cars, trucks, and other vehicles to cool the air conditioner’s refrigerant. The purpose of an AC auto compressor is to compress refrigerant into a high-pressure vapor. This refrigerant passes through an expansion valve where it expands into low-pressure gas that travels through coils inside your vehicle’s cabin.

A/C Condensers

The purpose of A/C condensers is to cool down the refrigerant gas used in air conditioning systems. This occurs when hot air passes through the refrigerant gas before it reaches your home’s cooling coils. The condenser coils are usually located outside of your home.

Industrials Condensers 

In power plants, condensers are used to condense steam produced by the turbines into water. The steam is cooled by passing it through tubes in which cold water flows. The condenser may be either a surface type or a shell-and-tube type. 

In the surface type, the tubes lie flat on the floor of the boiler room and are surrounded by cooling water flowing downward at a speed of about 1 foot per second. In shell-and-tube types of condensers, the tubes are contained within a shell that is filled with cold water and surrounded by hot steam.

The Compressor 

The compressor is responsible for taking in the refrigerant, compressing it, and pushing it through the rest of the system. It uses mechanical energy to compress gasses and liquids into smaller volumes, which increases their temperature. 

This process requires energy, so a portion of that mechanical energy is used as heat for refrigeration systems to function properly. Compressors are usually located outside of the fridge or freezer because they generate a lot of heat. There are three main types of compressors: 

Auto compressors

These compressors are mechanical devices that use a piston-and-cylinder arrangement to deliver power from an engine’s crankshaft to run various accessories in your car, such as the air conditioning system. The compressor is typically mounted on top of the engine and connected directly or indirectly (through a belt) to the crankshaft.

Compressors typically come in two types: 

  • Centrifugal compressors are found on vehicles without turbochargers or superchargers, 
  • Scroll compressors are used on engines equipped with these devices. 

Both types of compressors rely on oil lubrication to keep them running smoothly over time.

A/C compressors

A/C compressors are one of the most important parts of any air conditioning system. They take a refrigerant gas and compress it, which allows it to become hot and cold. The refrigerant then flows through the condenser, where it is cooled down by air flowing through the condenser coils. 

This process creates an energy exchange that cools the condenser coil and causes the refrigerant to condense into a liquid state so that it can flow back into the compressor for another cycle

Industrial compressors 

Industrial air compressors are machines that compress air and other gasses to increase their pressure and density. These devices are often used in industrial processes, such as manufacturing and construction, to power pneumatic tools and equipment. 

There are several types of industrial air compressors available in the market today. The most common ones are reciprocating, scroll, rotary screw, centrifugal, and piston-type compressors:

  • Reciprocating compressors use pistons that move back and forth inside cylinders to compress air. 
  • Scroll compressors use pistons that move back and forth inside cylinders to compress air. 
  • Rotary screw compressors use screws rotating around a central axis to drive their pistons through compression chambers. 
  • Centrifugal compressors use fans or impellers spinning at high speeds to force compressed gas out of a chamber into an outlet pipe or nozzles. 
  • Piston-type compressors have only one moving part – a piston rod connected to the crankshaft which moves up and down inside its cylinder while being driven by an electric motor or engine.

The Evaporator

Evaporators are made up of two components: the heating element and the cooling coil. The heating element consists of a series of resistors that heat up when electricity is applied to them. These resistors create hot air which flows through the evaporator and into the refrigerator unit. 

The cooling coils or tubes that remove heat. This component uses a fan to circulate air over these cooling coils or tubes to cool down the desired area. 

Air-cooled evaporators 

These evaporators use fans to move air across the coils, which helps them remove heat from within the appliance. The air-cooled evaporator requires a lot less maintenance than other types of evaporation systems, but it also uses more energy and produces more noise than other types of evaporators do.

Water-cooled evaporators 

These systems use water instead of air to transfer heat from inside your unit into the surrounding environment. Water cools down quickly and has no moving parts that can wear out over time as fans do. This type of system can be expensive to install and maintain.

What is the difference between a condenser and an evaporator? 

The main difference between a condenser and an evaporator is in their coils. The evaporator coil is inside your HVAC system’s condensing unit. It’s usually located on the front of the unit, near the bottom, or sometimes on top. 

It consists of a series of tubes or fins through which refrigerant travels from one end to another. As the refrigerant passes through these tubes, it absorbs heat from indoor air and releases it outside of your home.

The condenser coil, on the other hand, is located outside your home, on top of your AC unit’s compressor, or in a separate compartment altogether (this is becoming more common). Inside this component are coils filled with refrigerants that need to be cooled before they can release their heat into the atmosphere.

The two coils are usually located in separate parts of the house, with a heat exchanger between them. In some cases, such as central air conditioning systems with multiple zones or split systems (with separate indoor and outdoor units), there may be multiple evaporator coils within one unit, each serving its zone. There also may be multiple condenser units serving multiple zones at once.

Should a condenser be replaced with a compressor?

The short answer is no. When you need to replace your AC, whether it’s because you live in a climate where temperatures regularly top 90 degrees, or because it’s just getting old and inefficient, you have two options: 

  1. Replace the condenser with a new condenser that fits with the cooling system you are using.
  2. Replace the entire air conditioning unit.


Knowing the meaning of these terms is essential when it comes to HVAC systems. Although all three are used in cooling, the condenser is constructed somewhat differently from the other two. 

The compressor and the evaporator, although similar in function, have different designs, while the condenser is designed specifically to cool a liquid or gas that has been heated by an outside source.

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