How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

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 runs well, let’s gain some insight at how a normal central heating and cooling system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner works the just like your refrigerator, but understandably compared to keeping a little space cool, it has to cool your entire home. Both use a refrigerant that adapts simply from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a constant circle from the outside to the inside of your home. It goes into the house as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and assembles or soaks up heat from your indoor air, 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 pieces: 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 in your garage. As warm indoor air is carried throughout the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the cooler air is blown throughout your house.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant goes back to the compressor stationed in your outdoor condensing unit. The compressor enhances the pressure of the vapor until it changes into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor goes into the condenser coil where a lower amount hot air blows across the coil, removing heat to the outdoors, and changes 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 repeated.

Your AC system is a constant loop of processes. We realize the important thing to you isn’t really how it works, but that it’s operating correctly. 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 keep you happy this summer.

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