Inspecting the Exterior A/C Condenser/Compressor Unit

One of the many things home inspectors look at during a home inspection is the outdoor component that houses the condenser and compressor for the air conditioning system. The majority of things I look for has to do with efficiency of the unit and improving the efficiency so the unit operates at 100%. Below is a video explaining a few things that I look at on the unit and below the video I made a readable list.


  • First thing I do is I note the location of the unit in the report. I use North, East, South, and West for location.
  • I take a picture of the manufactures label. This will provide the person who hired me with all the information they need about the unit. This also gives me a reference so I can note the age of the unit in the report, the brand of the unit, and the max fuse/breaker rating for the unit.
  • I note the max fuse/breaker rating so that once I am inside the house and inspect the electrical panel I can see what fuse/breaker is being used for the unit and if it is greater than the max allowed for the unit (as specified by the manufacturer) I will recommend the breaker be changed out by a professional to match the size needed.
  • I will note the energy source, usually it’s electric, and I will note whether the unit is air cooled or water cooled etc.
  • I look for an outside disconnect for the unit. If the unit does not have one I will recommend one be installed so the unit can be shut off from the exterior for maintenance or what have you.
  • I look at the overall condition of the cabinet, note whether things are missing, broke, or there is excessive rust on the unit.
  • I look at the condenser fins and I note if they are dirty, bent, or damaged in  any way. If they are I recommend a professional repair/clean as needed. Air needs to freely move through these fins and if they are bent or full of debris that restricts the air movement and causes inefficiencies.
  • I check to make sure the unit is level and that there is sufficient air flow and clearance to the unit. The unit needs to breath so if it’s tucked behind walls or shrubbery then I recommend it be moved. The unit needs to be level because refrigerant goes through the system with lubricating oil and when the condenser is not level the oil can separate and the compressor could be running without proper lubrication. Like your vehicle motor needs oil to properly operate, this unit does as well.
  • I check the refrigerant line to make sure there is insulation around it. This line carries low temperature low pressure refrigerant gas from inside the house to the outside of the house. This line should have insulation around it to prevent condensation on the line and to prevent it from picking up additional heat outside. The warmer the refrigerant is the harder the compressor has to work to compress it.