Without a condenser, your AC would just be a ‘fan’. But it’s not just the condenser, but the material it is made of, that affects your AC’s performance and cost. Here’s a comparison between Copper vs Aluminium condenser so you can identify which suits your needs better.
If you support team ‘performance’. That is, if factors like better cooling, easy maintenance and long life, matter more to you then Copper condenser is the one for you!
If you’re from team ‘savings’ then an AC with an Aluminium condenser will save your money upfront. And will do a good enough job at the other, performance-related factors.
Want to know how I reached that conclusion? Keep reading to find out.
Copper vs Aluminium Condenser: A comparison
The condenser coils in an AC are located either in its external unit (Split AC) or in the outer part (window AC). This exposes them to the harsh outside environment.
The condenser has to do its job (i.e. throw out the heat collected from the room) while handling these external ‘attacks’ for years till the AC is in use.
These environmental ‘attacks’ include the moisture, micro-organisms, and various other chemicals in the moisture or air. From the very day your new AC is installed, these attacks begin.
Condensers made with Copper have a higher chance of ‘fighting off’ these attacks compared to Aluminium. Why?
This is because the metal Copper has anti-microbial properties along with being harder, stronger, more tensile, and corrosion resistant. Copper condensers have a natural advantage against microbial growth and other types of fungal or algae growth.
As its stronger, Copper has lower chances of developing cracks or ruptures. And even in such case, it is easy to fix it.
Aluminium condensers, on the other hand, are not as strong and resistant as Copper. In case of damage or leakage, you’ll have to replace the entire condenser and get a new one.
Aluminium is also prone to microbial growth, especially if you live in humid cities like Mumbai.
Some manufacturers have tried to combat the humidity problem by introducing coated condensers called Blue fin or Gold fin condensers. These epoxy coated condensers can fairly resist damage from moisture and microbes.
Overall, Copper condensers are superior to Aluminium condensers in terms of durability.
At some point in time, almost all of us have squeezed soft-drink cans and felt it crunch right in our palms! That, is how easy it is to bend pliable metals like Aluminium.
Try doing that to a thin Copper sheet. You’ll need both hands and a hammer to bend it even slightly.
Copper is harder and 3 times more tensile than Aluminium. Hence trying to break Copper is thrice as hard when compared to Aluminium.
This is also reflected in Copper’s ability to be bent and shaped.
Since Copper demands more time and effort to turn into a coiled structure, it’s making costs are higher. It is easier to mould Aluminium into coils which reduces its making costs.
Hence, ACs with Copper condenser are costlier than ACs with Aluminium condenser.
However, the rising cost of Copper metal has led to an increase in low-quality Copper condensers flooding the market. It is thus very important to buy your AC from a reputed brand to minimise your chances of getting duped.
Any AC’s cooling performance is directly linked to how efficiently its ‘heat exchanging’ coils work.
There are 2 sets of coils used in an Air conditioner— Evaporator coils and condenser coils. How quickly these coils can absorb and release heat, determine how good of a ‘heat exchanger’ the coils are.
It is known that Copper is a better conductor of heat than Aluminium.
Coils made with Copper, exchange heat better and faster than coils made with Aluminium. In scientific terms, this happens because Copper has a higher thermal conductivity than Aluminium.
What this means for you is that every time the AC takes in a batch of hot air to cool it down, ACs with Copper condenser do a quicker and better job of cooling that air.
ACs with Aluminium coils fall a little behind Copper when it comes to cooling performance.
Want to compare some Copper coiled ACs with Aluminium ones? Head over to the best split ACs in India or the best Window ACs in India now!
The role of Coils in how an AC works
An AC uses 2 sets of coils to cool the air in your room— Evaporator coil and Condenser coil. Let’s understand how these coils play their part in cooling down your room.
Air Conditioner takes a small batch of hot air from the room, transfers the heat outside (it transfers only the heat not the air itself) thereby reducing the temperature of that batch of air and making it cooler. It then releases the cool air back inside the room.
The AC then takes another batch of hot air from the room and repeats the process.
To understand how the AC does this, there are two concepts that need your attention.
The first is the concept of heat transfer.
Consider this, you prepare a hot cup of tea, place it on your table and leave. What happens when you come back to it after an hour?
Obviously, the tea has become cold. This is because heat from the tea has escaped to its surroundings i.e. the surrounding air, the surface of the table, etc.
Notice here that the tea was in the same place, the cup too was in the same place, just the heat from the hot tea has been transferred to its surroundings thereby making the tea cold. This is the concept of heat transfer.
When heat is transferred from one object to another the object which loses heat becomes cooler and the object which gains heat becomes hotter.
This is what the Air Conditioner does; it takes in a small batch of hot air, transfers its heat to another object (called a coolant or a refrigerant) thereby making that batch of air cooler, and releases the cool air inside the room.
Again, notice here that neither does the AC generate any cold air of its own nor does it take in any outside air. It just transfers heat of air from inside to outside.
The Second concept in understanding how the AC works only needs a bit of revision of something we have all learned in school:
Evaporation and Condensation
We all know water is in liquid form. If we heat it, it converts into steam (or gaseous state). We call this evaporation. Thus, evaporation is the process of converting liquid into gas by applying heat to the liquid.
And condensation is the reverse of evaporation. Take out the heat from steam (gaseous state) and it’ll turn to water (liquid state). Hence, in other words, condensation is the process of converting gas into liquid by removing heat from the gas.
For any AC (window or split) the unit inside your house has the Evaporator coil. Its job is exactly what its name suggests, to evaporate.
But what does it evaporate?
The Evaporator evaporates something called as refrigerant or coolant— the object which takes the heat out of the batch of hot air collected from the room.
The Evaporator contains this Refrigerant or coolant in a liquid state. Now as per its job, it wants to evaporate the coolant into gaseous state. Where will it get the heat to evaporate the coolant?
Yes, you guessed it right, within the room itself! So, a batch of hot air from the room is taken in by a blower fan and passed over the evaporator coil.
The heat from this hot air is transferred to the refrigerant, thereby cooling the room air which is released back into the room.
Now, as the refrigerant has absorbed heat from the room air, its temperature increases till it evaporates from liquid to gas. The evaporator’s job is then complete.
But there is still more air to be cooled within the room. However, there’s no more refrigerant as all of it has evaporated to gaseous state.
Hence in the next stage, the hot gaseous refrigerant is cooled down or condensed into liquid and brought back to the evaporator again so the cycle can continue.
Let’s understand how it is done.
After heat from a batch of hot air is transferred to coolant and the coolant turns into gas, this very hot gaseous coolant passes through a compressor. Here it is compressed, leading to an increase in its pressure.
This high-pressure hot coolant then passes through a condenser coil.
The condenser coil is made of heat-loving metals like Copper or Aluminium. The highly pressurized hot gaseous coolant loses its heat to the condenser and becomes highly pressurized liquid.
This highly pressurized liquid then passes through an expansion valve that reduces its pressure.
Liquid coolant becomes cold again and comes back to the evaporator coil (the starting point of its journey) to absorb heat from the next batch of air from the room. And the cycle repeats again.
That’s how an AC works. Both window and split ACs work in exactly the same way.