In systems involving heat transfer, a condenser is a device or unit used to condense a substance from its gaseous to its liquid state, typically by cooling it. In so doing, the latent heat is given up by the substance, and will transfer to the condenser coolant. Condensers are typically heat exchangers which have various designs and come in many sizes ranging from rather small (hand-held) to very large industrial-scale units used in plant processes. For example, a refrigerator uses a condenser to get rid of heat extracted from the interior of the unit to the outside air. Condensers are used in air conditioning, industrial chemical processes such as distillation, steam power plants and other heat-exchange systems. Use of cooling water or surrounding air as the coolant is common in many condensers.
A condenser unit used in central air conditioning systems typically has a heat exchanger section to cool down and condense incoming refrigerant vapor into liquid, a compressor to raise the pressure of the refrigerant and move it along, and a fan for blowing outside air through the heat exchanger section to cool the refrigerant inside. A typical configuration of such a condenser unit is as follows: The heat exchanger section wraps around the sides of the unit with the compressor inside. In this heat exchanger section, the refrigerant goes through multiple tube passes, which are surrounded by heat transfer fins through which cooling air can move from outside to inside the unit. There is a motorized fan inside the condenser unit near the top, which is covered by some grating to keep any objects from accidentally falling inside on the fan. The fan is used to blow the outside cooling air in through the heat exchange section at the sides and out the top through the grating. These condenser units are located on the outside of the building they are trying to cool, with tubing between the unit and building, one for vapor refrigerant entering and another for liquid refrigerant leaving the unit. Of course, an electric power supply is needed for the compressor and fan inside the unit.