The condenser in the refrigerator: how does it work

When this question has appeared in your mind, it indicates that you are wondering about how your fridge or AC works. A condenser is one of its main components and if you want to get a basic idea about how a refrigerator works, you should learn more about it. Let’s take a look at this part.


You must have seen metal pipes on the back of your fridge or AC. And if you touch them, you will see that they are quite hot. This is because they help in the functioning of the refrigerator by transferring heat from the inside to the outside. The five major parts of a refrigerator are – a compressor, condenser, evaporator, capillary tube, and thermostat. In this blog, you will learn how the condenser works. 

What is a condenser?

A condenser is one of the top four major components of a refrigeration cycle and helps in the cooling system. A condenser is also called a ‘condenser coil’. Any refrigeration loop fundamentally uses either of the two types of available heat exchangers. And a condenser is one of them and its job is to remove the heat vapor gas from the refrigerant. As the name indicates, a condenser helps in the condensation of the gas vapor and turning it into a saturated liquid state. This part is found in fridges and AC’s.

 This is part of a closed-loop in which the cool refrigerant is pumped into your fridge to cool it down. After a while, the refrigerant heats up, and vapor escapes. This vapor is then cooled down and the process starts again.

Some of the refrigerant vapor can get lost in this process. In some fridges, you will have to add this to make sure that your fridge works properly.

Whichever model of fridge you have, you will see overlapping copper tubes, present either at its back, one side, or the bottom. The condensation coil will be either in a coiling or grid pattern. Different models have different sizes of condenser coil, but it almost always covers half to almost full of the refrigerator wall.  

What are the different types of condensers?

Condensers condense the refrigerant. The refrigerant is pressurized and hot while entering the condenser. The condenser transforms into a liquid state by cooling it down.

There are three kinds of condensers:

  • Air-cooled condenser

These condensers are used for small refrigerators which are used for domestic purposes. They are perfect for a small amount of refrigerant. This condenser is also known as a ‘coil condenser’. You will find copper or aluminum coils at the back of the refrigerator. These coils help to enlarge the surface area for cooling the refrigerant. 

There are two types of air-cooled condensers – the natural convection condenser, and the forced convection condenser. The first type cools the refrigerant by using the natural airflow. The latter pulls in the cold air with the help of a fan. This requires more electricity but works faster.

  • Water-cooled condenser

When there is a large quantity of refrigerant that needs to be cooled down, this type of condenser is used. Refrigerators in large plants use water-cooled condensers. These condensers use water to cool the refrigerant down. This is why a lot of factories are located near rivers.

There are three kinds of water-cooled condensers. These are:

  1. Double-pipe or tube-in-tube
  2. Shell and tube
  3. Shell and coil

A water-cooled condenser works best when the ambient temperature is high.

  • Evaporative condenser

This type of condenser is a mix of the other two types of the condenser and combines the best features of both. Evaporative condensers are used in ice plants. 

What is the function of a condenser?

A condenser works to take away the heat that comes from the hot refrigerant vapors. The function of the condenser coil is to cool these hot vapors and liquidize them. This is why the tubes are bent. This makes the vapor slow down and become liquid. In combination with the fridge’s or AC evaporator, the condenser pulls out the heat from the interior of the fridge and sends it outside the unit. 

The hot vapor having a high temperature and high pressure of the compressor gets inside the condenser and from there it reaches the expansion device. But before that, the condenser precipitates the vapor into a low-temperature liquid refrigerant. This heat rejection and condensation happen in two stages. 

How does a refrigerator condenser work?

Let us understand the working principle of a refrigerator’s condenser coil. 

The string of pipes or copper tubes on the fridge connects the evaporator and the condenser. The liquid refrigerant passes from one component to another through these pipes. The refrigerant first moves through the evaporator while gathering the heat from inside the freezer or fridge. As a result of this, the inside of your fridge becomes cold enough to store your food. The surplus heat energy warms up the refrigerant, which makes it turn into gaseous material. The refrigerant in the gaseous state then moves into the condenser.

When the refrigerant enters the condenser, there is a fan that blows air onto the condenser coil or tubes. This helps to cool the refrigerant that is inside the copper pipe, The surplus heat energy is released into the room. After the heat exits the refrigerant, it again changes into a liquid form and enters the evaporator. This is how the cooling cycle of the refrigerator works with the help of a condenser. 

Why should you clean the condenser of your refrigerator?

Routine maintenance of your refrigerator will keep it functioning effectively. It is one of the essential appliances for us and we would find our life becoming very difficult if the fridge suddenly stops working. If you want your refrigerator to keep servicing you for a long time, you must clean the condenser regularly. This makes sure that the dust doesn’t overheat the condenser coil. Cleaning it can be done with a brush and vacuum.

When the condenser coil starts malfunctioning, the temperature of the fridge does not become cold enough. If you do not clean the condenser, it will become clogged. The heat doesn’t get expelled properly. And as a result of this, your refrigerator might completely break down. This is because when the condenser coils cannot function properly, they start putting pressure on other components which they might not be able to handle.

You can clean the condenser using a coil brush or vacuum cleaner’s crevice tool attachment. 


Whirlpool Fridge and Freezer User Manual