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Capacitor vs. Condenser: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on November 18, 2023
A capacitor is an electronic component storing energy in an electric field, while a condenser, historically, is another term for capacitor but can also refer to a device that condenses a substance.

Key Differences

The term capacitor refers to an electronic device used to store electrical energy in an electric field. In contrast, the term condenser was historically used for the same device but has evolved to include devices that condense a substance.
Over time, capacitor has become the preferred term in electronics for the component that stores energy. However, condenser is still commonly used in some regions and older literature.
Capacitors are found in electronic circuits, offering a variety of functions such as smoothing, filtering, and energy storage. Meanwhile, condensers, in the context of substance condensation, are used in refrigeration, air conditioning, and various lab settings.
Modern capacitors encompass a range of designs and materials, enhancing their efficiency and capacity. In contrast, the term condenser, when not referring to a capacitor, emphasizes the change of a substance from its gaseous form to its liquid state.
Capacitors are primarily associated with electronic circuits and devices. Condensers, due to their broader definition, might be linked with both electronics and other areas like thermodynamics.

Comparison Chart


Electronic component storing energy.
Historically, a capacitor; also, a device that condenses.

Common Usage

Widely used in modern electronics.
Older term for capacitor; also used in cooling/refrigeration.


Stores electrical energy.
Stores electrical energy or condenses gases into liquids.

Associated Fields

Electronics, thermodynamics.

Historical Context

Became the preferred term over time.
Older term for capacitor; now has broader meanings.

Capacitor and Condenser Definitions


A device used to accumulate and hold a charge.
The capacitor took a few seconds to charge fully.


A historical term for an electronic component storing electrical energy.
The old schematic mentioned a condenser, which is now called a capacitor.


A component that can manage voltage fluctuations.
The inclusion of a capacitor stabilized the circuit's voltage.


A device that condenses vapor into liquid.
The condenser in the refrigerator ensures efficient cooling.


An element that introduces capacitance into a circuit.
This radio uses a tuning capacitor to select different stations.


An apparatus that cools a gas until it becomes a liquid.
The laboratory condenser was crucial for the distillation process.


An electronic component that stores and releases electrical energy.
The circuit malfunctioned due to a faulty capacitor.


A lens that concentrates light onto a focal point.
The microscope's condenser lens focuses light onto the specimen.


A passive two-terminal electrical component.
Make sure to connect the capacitor in the correct orientation.


A component, often in HVAC systems, that liquefies refrigerant vapors.
The air conditioner's condenser unit is located outside the house.


An electric circuit element typically consisting of two metallic plates separated and insulated from each other by a dielectric, used to store charge temporarily or to filter signal frequencies. Also called condenser.


One that condenses, especially an apparatus used to condense vapor.


(electronics) An electronic component capable of storing electrical energy in an electric field; especially one consisting of two conductors separated by a dielectric.


See capacitor.


A device used in electronic circuits to hold electrical charge, consisting of two conducting plates separated by a nonconducting (dielectric) medium; it is characterized by its capacitance.


An electrical device characterized by its capacity to store an electric charge


Are capacitors polarized?

Some are, like electrolytic capacitors; others, like ceramic capacitors, are not.

What's the role of a condenser in microscopes?

It focuses light onto the specimen, improving image clarity.

How do condensers function in refrigeration?

They cool and condense refrigerant vapors into a liquid state.

Are capacitor and condenser synonymous?

Historically, yes; "condenser" was an older term for "capacitor." However, they have distinct meanings today.

Do condensers only refer to electronic components?

No, they can also refer to devices that condense vapor into liquid.

Where are condensers used in HVAC systems?

Condensers in HVAC systems liquefy refrigerant vapors.

Can a capacitor be used to store energy for long durations?

Capacitors store energy temporarily; they're not ideal for long-term energy storage.

Do larger capacitors store more energy?

Generally, larger capacitance values allow more energy storage, but voltage ratings also play a part.

How are capacitors rated?

Typically by capacitance (farads) and voltage.

Can a capacitor store infinite energy?

No, capacitors have a specified energy storage capacity.

Is it safe to touch a charged capacitor?

No, touching a charged capacitor can be dangerous and lead to electric shock.

Do condensers have a role in car engines?

Historically, yes. In ignition systems, condensers (or capacitors) prevented points from burning.

What happens if a capacitor is connected backward?

For polarized capacitors, this can lead to failure or even explosion.

Is a condenser used in distillation?

Yes, it cools and condenses the vaporized substance back into a liquid.

Can capacitors affect AC signals?

Yes, capacitors can block DC and allow AC signals to pass through.

How do condensers relate to photography?

Condensers can be used in enlargers to focus light, producing sharp images.

Can capacitors help in smoothing voltage in power supplies?

Yes, capacitors can stabilize voltage by storing and releasing energy as needed.

What's the main function of a condenser in air conditioning?

To expel heat and condense refrigerant vapor into liquid.

Why is the term "condenser" less common in electronics now?

"Capacitor" became the preferred term, leading to less use of "condenser" in this context.

Is "condenser microphone" related to electrical condensers?

The name comes from the use of capacitance to convert acoustic energy into electrical energy, not from the historic term "condenser."
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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