You may qualify for up to $5,000 back on a new system! Read More

Skip navigation

Start Your Career Today! Learn How


Kilowatt Heating, Air Conditioning and Electrical Blog

Does Your AC Have Enough Space to “Breathe”?


Most homes with central air conditioners have split systems. These are air conditioners with a set of indoor and outdoor units. The indoor unit contains the evaporator coil and the air handler that sends cooled air into the ventilation system. The outdoor unit, also known as the condenser, is a cabinet that holds the compressor, evaporator coil, and exhaust fan.

Any resident of Southern California knows the sight of these outdoor condenser units. They’re usually located along the side of a house or in the backyard, sometimes disguised behind a fence because people generally don’t find them the most beautiful part of the outside decor. Homeowners sometimes try to hide condensers behind shrubs or other plants, making them disappear into the landscaping. Unfortunately, this can lead to serious AC problems! The condenser of a central air conditioner must have a clear area around it to give it room to “breathe,” as we’ll explain below.

The Vital Job of the Condenser

To understand why the condenser needs space around it, you’ll need to know an important part of the condenser’s job: exhausting heat outdoors.

An air conditioner doesn’t “create” cold air inside the house. What it does is move heat from inside the house to the outside using the circulation of refrigerant. The indoor evaporator coil absorbs heat from the air, lowering its temperature, and then moves this heat to the outside condenser coil. A fan pulls warm outdoor air across the condenser coil, causing the coil to release heat. The fan then exhausts this heat out of the condenser cabinet. You can feel this happening if you stand near the condenser while the AC is running—the fan blows out a steady stream of warm air. 

In order for this process to work efficiently, the condenser must have enough space on all sides of it from proper airflow. 

What Can Happen When the Condenser Is Blocked

If a condenser unit has plants or other obstructions near it, it cannot effectively exhaust heat. As more heat remains trapped inside the air conditioner, it causes the AC’s energy efficiency to plunge and the cost to run the system to rise. The air conditioner must run longer in order to remove enough heat from the house to reach a comfortable temperature. 

This extra work also means additional strain placed on the AC, and that can lead to money loss in many other ways. The air conditioner will age faster, parts will fail, and the whole AC may need to be replaced years early.

Having shrubs and other obstructions near the condenser can also lead to debris getting inside the cabinet and damaging parts. Dirt along the condenser coil will make its job even harder, further lowering system efficiency.

Give Your AC Clear Breathing Room—On All Sides!

Our advice to avoid this kind of problem is to clear objects from the condenser for about a foot on all sides. Trim back any plants growing near the cabinet, and remove pebbles, leaves, branches, or any other objects that may get pulled into the cabinet. 

If you need any help with your air conditioning in Burbank, CA to ensure it runs its best, you can trust our team.

Call our certified service technicians 24/7 for exceptional customer service! Kilowatt Heating, Air Conditioning and Electrical serves Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.

Comments are closed.