How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The popular season is here with record highs across the country, and with the vast majority of homes having some type of air conditioner, it’s the best way to get out of the heat. As you are unwinding in your comfortably cool home or office, thankful that your air conditioner functions, let’s gain some insight at how a typical cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the just like your refrigerator, but clearly compared to keeping a little space cool, it has to effectively provide cooler air to your whole home. Both use a refrigerant that changes easily from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a constant ring from the outside to indoors. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and collects or soaks up heat from the air within your house, expands back into vapor, then returns to the outside condensing unit where it dissipates the heat and is changed back to a sub-cooled liquid.

The Components

Your AC system is built of four main components: an evaporator coil, a compressor, a condensing coil, and an expansion valve or metering device.

The part where your refrigerant evaporates from a sub-cooled liquid to a super-heated vapor is called the evaporator coil, which may be indoors, in your attic, or in your garage. As warm indoor air is moved across the cold evaporator coil, heat is pulled from the air…and the cooled air is blown throughout your indoor space.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant returns to the compressor stationed in your outdoor condensing unit. The compressor increases the pressure of the vapor until it turns into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor meets the condenser coil where a lower amount hot air blows across the coil, eliminating the heat to the outdoors, and returns the refrigerant to a sub-cooled liquid. The sub-cooled liquid refrigerant is pushed to the indoor evaporator coil where, through an expansion valve or metering device, the process is repeated.

Your air conditioner is a consistent loop of physics at work. We realize the important thing to you might not be how your AC operates, but that it’s working successfully. If you’d like to think about the process or just about staying cool, give our technicians a call at 419-592-4756. We will team up with you and the laws of physics to ensure you happy this season.

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