The condenser coil of an AC is responsible for improving the performance and efficiency of the AC. It also helps in increasing its life span. Some of the common problems associated with most AC units are slow cooling, coil breakage, gas leakage, etc.
The main function of the condenser coil is to release the heat that is absorbed by the refrigerant from the room and release it outside. There are two types of metals that are used to make these coils: Aluminum and Copper.
Even though coils made from both materials perform the same task, the difference lies in their durability, heat transmission capability, and corrosion-resistant properties. Here is our review that will help you decide which condenser coil will work the best for you.
Importance of Condenser Coils in an Air Conditioner
Condenser coils are an important part of the entire AC unit as it transfers the heat present inside the room outside in the air.
Condenser coils contain refrigerant or coolant that absorb the heat from the air passing over it and converts it from liquid form to gas. Hence, the air present inside the room turns colder.
This entire refrigeration process is divided into 4 parts:
Evaporation: In this process, the low-pressure liquid passes through the evaporator coil. The heat present inside the room is absorbed here and changes from liquid to gas form.
Compression: The refrigerant gas is now pressurized so that it transforms to a high-pressure hot liquid form.
Condensation: The liquid hot gas is now passed through the condenser coil where the gas is cooled down by emitting all the heat to the outside air. The condenser coils are used here.
Expansion Valve: The expansion valve is responsible for converting the cooled high-pressure liquid into low-pressure liquid.
This process is repeated continuously till the temperature inside the room reaches the temperature settings that you have selected in the AC remote.
Copper Condenser vs. Aluminum Condenser: Which one is Better for Air Conditioning?
If you are thinking about which coil should you prefer over the other, the following table can be a great help to you:
|Better than aluminum
|Lesser than copper
|Is corrosive but easy to maintain
|Is corrosive and difficult to maintain.
In case of corrosion,
you will have to replace the coils
|Requires more metal to
make the coil
|When compared to
copper, requires less metal
|Ease of Maintenance
|Easy to clean and maintain
|Difficult to clean and maintain. Micro channels can get clogged too
|Raw copper is costlier
|Raw aluminum is
cheaper than raw copper
|Easy to repair
|Difficult to repair.
Mostly it requires replacement.
|More durable as it is
stronger than aluminum
|Less durable than copper
Transfer of Heat:
The most important function of a condenser coil is to transfer the heat. When compared to aluminum, copper offers a higher heat transfer coefficient. Hence, by using a copper coil, the heat transfer process inside the air conditioner is going to be better. This will be helpful in increasing the efficiency and will also result in lower electricity bills.
The condenser coils are always exposed to the outside environment as they are either located in the outer part in window AC models or in the external unit in Split ACs.
Copper provides a higher chance of dealing with different environmental conditions than aluminum. The reason behind this is copper is not only strong and hard but it also features anti-microbial properties. It is corrosion-resistant and is more tensile. Hence, condensers made using copper comes with the natural advantage of fighting against the growth of microbes and different types of algae and fungi.
The chances of development of ruptures or cracks in copper condensers are less too. Even if there are any cracks, it is much easier to fix them.
Aluminum condensers are not as strong and resistant comparatively. If there is any damage or if you notice any leakage in the aluminum condenser, you will have to replace it completely and get a new one. Another disadvantage here is aluminum is quite prone to microbial growth.
Hence, in terms of durability, copper condensers perform better than aluminum condensers.
Pliability and Cost Factor:
In comparison to copper, aluminum offers better bending abilities and you can bend it easily in your desired shapes. In terms of money, copper is a bit costlier than aluminum. While making an AC, the amount of copper required to make a condenser coil is thrice of that required to make aluminum coils of the same size and shape. This has a direct impact on the overall cost of the air conditioner. Hence, ACs with copper coils are costlier than the ones with aluminum coils. This is why most manufacturers prefer using aluminum as it reduces the overall cost of the main AC unit.
Ease of Maintenance:
The condenser coils are located in the condenser unit which is mostly mounted outside the house. Thus, as they are exposed directly to the sun, dust, and harsh weather conditions, they require regular cleaning. Maintenance-wise, copper coils are considered better than aluminum coils.
As copper coils are durable and are not prone to damage even in bad weather, they are easy to clean and maintain and offer better performance. Aluminum coils, on the other hand, are easily prone to damage due to harsh weather conditions. Thus, they are kept inside covered and heavy cabinets. This makes it even more difficult to clean them.
Corrosion is also an important factor that helps in determining the overall life of an air conditioner. Due to corrosion, the coil can get damaged. This can hamper the heat transfer process and sometimes also result in leakage. Thus, it is very important to prevent the coils from corrosion.
You can notice corrosion damages mostly in humid weather conditions. People living near coastal areas also face this issue a lot as the moisture content in the air in these areas is also high.
Because of corrosion, a non-conductive layer gets formed over the condenser coil. This layer reduces the heat exchange capacity of the coil. In such scenarios, both copper and aluminum coils require regular cleaning and maintenance. However, if the coil gets damaged due to corrosion, it is easier to repair copper coils than aluminum coils,
With the help of new and modern technologies, the manufacturers have figured out ways to prevent the coil from corrosion. They make Blue coating condenser, Gold coating condenser, and Black coating condenser that prevents the condenser from rusting to a certain extent.
By repairability, it means that how easily can you get the coil repaired. If there is any minor leakage, it should be easier to get it repaired without spending a lot of money. As a matter of fact, aluminum coils cannot be fixed and you will have to replace them completely in case of damages.
Hence, it is suggested to prefer going for copper coils over aluminum coils.
Aluminum condensers get damaged quite easily. When they damage, they start releasing harmful gases such as R22 and R410A to the environment. This way, copper condensers are more durable and are energy-efficient too. Hence, AC units with copper condensers are more user-friendly and environment-friendly.
How to Protect the AC Coils from Corrosion?
In order for the AC to work and perform efficiently, it is necessary to protect the evaporator coils and condenser coils from moisture and humidity. Here are some maintenance tips that can help you:
If you already own an AC:
To protect the condenser coils from moisture (corrosion) and humidity, you can paint the coils using anti-corrosive materials.
If you are thinking to buy an AC:
Some good brands of AC offer “Blue Fin Condenser” to protect the coils from adverse effects of humidity and moisture. While buying an AC, you can give more preference to them.
To negate this effect of corrosion, you can even opt for microchannel condenser coils. Here, the refrigerant flows via micro-channels made using aluminum. It makes use of flat aluminum fins between the refrigerant manifolds and the tubes.
As the system makes use of only aluminum, it will protect the coils against galvanic corrosion. It is a good option for those who live in coastal areas where the concentration of salt is high in the air.
Coils inside the air conditioner unit are designed to maintain a proper heat cycle and eventually provide comfort. There are two types of coils in an AC – evaporator coil and condenser coil. Both of these coils are made of either copper or aluminum.
Copper coils are better in terms of heat exchange, durability, strength, and maintenance. However, these benefits could cost you a lot of money. On the flip side, aluminum coils come at a cheaper price thereby lowering the total air conditioner price. However, they are less durable and will require replacement if damaged.
In conclusion, if you have a good budget you should go for a copper coil air conditioner as they are less prone to damages and will require less maintenance. Aluminum coil air conditioners are a good choice if you have a low budget and are ready to take regular care of the unit. Good luck with either choice!