How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

Summer has arrived with record temps across the country, and with many houses having some type of air conditioner, it’s the ideal way to get out of the heat. As you are sitting in your comfortably cool home or office, appreciating that your air conditioner works, let’s gain some insight at how a normal cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner runs the just like your refrigerator, but understandably compared to keeping a little space cool, it has to work to cool down your whole house. Both use a refrigerant that adapts simply from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a consistent loop from the outdoors to indoors. It goes into the house as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and assembles or soaks up heat from the air in your home, expands back into vapor, then back 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 parts: an evaporator coil, a compressor, a condensing coil, and an expansion valve or metering device.

The component where your refrigerant evaporates from a sub-cooled liquid to a super-heated vapor is called the evaporator coil, which may be inside, in your attic, or located in the garage. As warm indoor air is carried across the cold evaporator coil, heat is pulled from the air…and the cooler air is blown within your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant goes back to the compressor located in your outside condensing unit. The compressor enhances 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 past the coil, removing heat to the outdoors, and returns the refrigerant to a sub-cooled liquid. The sub-cooled liquid refrigerant is returned to the indoor evaporator coil where, through an expansion valve or metering device, the process is replicated.

Your AC system is a constant loop of physics at work. We know the important thing to you isn’t really how it works, but that it’s operating the right way. If you’d like to know the inner workings or just about remaining cool, give our professionals a call at 408-215-1018. We will team up with you and the laws of physics to ensure you happy this season.