A condenser (or AC condenser) is the outdoor portion of an air conditioner or heat pump that either releases or collects heat, depending on the time of the year.
Both split air conditioner and heat pump condensers are made of the same basic parts. The condenser cabinet contains the condenser coil, a compressor, a fan, and various controls. The condenser coil can be made of copper tubing with aluminum fins or all-aluminum tubing so heat can be rapidly transferred.
The condenser fan is a vital component and circulates the air across the coil to facilitate heat transfer. The compressor is the heart of the system since it compresses the refrigerant and pumps it to a coil in the form of a hot gas.
In air conditioners, the refrigerant is cooled at the condenser into a warm liquid, and passes through a pipe into the evaporator coil where it expands and cools. In heat pumps, the hot gas is pumped directly to the evaporator coil to provide heat.