US government energy experts project that energy use for air conditioning will increase more than any other use through 2050. Living in a hot climate like Texas means you understand the importance of your AC system. What do you do when your air conditioning stops working?

If your outdoor condenser is broken, troubleshooting it is the first step toward fixing it. Find out more about what the outdoor condenser unit does. Then learn how to identify problems and find the solutions.

You’ll have a working outdoor condenser again before you know it. Keep reading!

What Is the Outdoor Condenser?

Before you can start troubleshooting your broken outdoor condenser, you need to know how it’s supposed to work. The outdoor condenser unit is one of the three main components of your AC system.


First is the evaporator, which is usually located in the basement, the attic, or a closet. Refrigerant in the evaporator coils collects hot, humid air from inside your home. The liquid refrigerant turns into a gas because of the heat.

The indoor air is now cooler and drier. A fan blows it back into your home. The evaporated refrigerant goes to the outdoor air conditioning unit.

Compressor and Condenser

The second and third components of your AC system, the compressor and condenser, are located in the outdoor air conditioning unit.

When the refrigerant reaches the compressor, it’s still a gas. The compressor pressurizes it. Then the refrigerant moves into the condenser.

The refrigerant condenses into a liquid and loses its heat through the condenser coils or fins. It goes back inside to the evaporator coil, and the process starts again.

Importance of the Condenser

Your AC system only works when all three components are working. If the condenser has a problem, you may notice that the AC system isn’t cooling your home as well as usual. You may hear a clanking or rattling noise in the fan.

An electricity bill that’s higher than normal is another sign your outdoor condenser may have stopped working.

It’s important to address problems with your air conditioner condenser right away. Small issues will get worse and can cause the entire unit to fail. Here are some troubleshooting tips for your AC condenser unit to help find out what’s wrong.

Check the Power Switches and Circuit Box

It seems obvious, but you should first check to be sure the AC is on. Your thermostat should be set to “cool” with a temperature setting lower than the room temperature.

Then, you can check the power switches for the HVAC system. You should have a power switch near the indoor unit and an external safety switch near the outdoor unit. They should both be flipped on or plugged in.

Once you’re sure the HVAC system is on, check your circuit box. If the circuit for the outdoor unit has tripped, turn it all the way off and then back on. If the circuit trips more than once, you should call an electrician to find out what the issue is.

Look at the Float Switch

If the outdoor unit isn’t working at all, the float switch may have tripped. This switch turns the whole AC system off if water could leak into your home.

Look in the pan under your indoor unit for water. Water is a sign that the drain is clogged.

Emptying the pan and flushing the drain line may fix the problem.

Remove Debris from Around the Outdoor Condenser Unit

The condenser may be working inefficiently because of debris inside or around the unit. Debris can block the condenser and bend the coil fins. This restricts the airflow, which reduces the unit’s efficiency.

Remove any leaves, branches, sticks, or other debris. Clean off any dust on the condenser coil as well.

Keeping the area around your outdoor condenser as clear as possible will help prevent this type of problem.

Check the Low Voltage Wires

Low voltage wires connect the outdoor condenser to the indoor unit and thermostat. Some of these wires may be partially exposed depending on how your unit is installed. If you can see these wires, check to be sure they’re intact and fully connected.

Damaged or disconnected wires will prevent the outdoor unit from turning on.

Verify the Refrigerant Level

Low refrigerant levels is another possible cause of problems with your AC condenser unit. First, reach carefully behind the unit and feel the refrigerant lines. If they’re not cold, they’re not working properly.

You can also look around the condenser to check for leaks. If you hear a hissing noise or see frost on the unit, you should turn the AC off. Then call a repair technician as soon as possible.

Breathing or touching refrigerants is dangerous for your health.

Listen for Unusual Noises

A variety of noises can signal an issue with the AC condenser unit. The fan or the capacitor could be the problem.

Clanging or Rattling

If you hear clanking or rattling in the outdoor air conditioner unit, the problem might be the fan. Check to see if any debris is stuck in the fan and remove it.

Rattling could also mean there are loose parts or screws. Tightening these items as soon as possible is important. Loose parts can damage other components in the condenser unit.


If you hear an unusual humming sound, the problem might be the capacitor. The capacitor is what starts the motor and keeps it running.

To see if the capacitor is working, slide a long object like a stick through the fan grate. Push the fan blade with the stick. If the fan starts running, the capacitor isn’t working correctly.

Fixing Your Outdoor Condenser

Depending on what you find when troubleshooting your outdoor condenser, you may be able to fix it yourself. For example, flipping the circuit breaker switch or removing debris are simple repairs.

For repairs that need a professional, Schneider Mechanical is available 24/7. We’ve been serving Austin and the surrounding areas since 2009. We’re licensed, fully insured, and give you a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Contact us today with your AC questions and repair needs. We’ll get your system back online ASAP.