How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

Summer is in full swing with record temps across the country, and with a lot households having some type of air conditioner, it’s the ideal way to escape the sun. As you are relaxing in your comfortably cool home or office, thankful that your air conditioner works, let’s look at how an average central heating and cooling system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner works the same way as your refrigerator, but clearly rather than keeping a small space cool, it has to effectively provide cooler air to your whole home. Both use a refrigerant that changes swiftly from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a consistent loop from the outside to the interior of your house. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and assembles or takes in heat from your indoor air, expands back into vapor, then returns to the outside condensing unit where it dissipates the heat and is switched back to a sub-cooled liquid.

The Components

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

The piece 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 pulled from the air…and the colder air is blown within your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant returns to the compressor based in your exterior 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 less hot air blows across 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 redone.

Your air conditioner is an endless loop of processes. We know the important thing to you might not be how your AC operates, but that it’s operating successfully. If you’d like to talk science or just about staying cool, give our experts a call at 704-233-7363. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to confirm you comfortable this time around.

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