How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

The summer season is in full swing with record heat across the country, and with the vast majority of homes having some kind of air conditioner, it’s the best way to beat the heat. As you are unwinding in your comfortably cool home or office, appreciating that your air conditioner runs well, let’s look at how an average AC system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner works the similar to 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 changes swiftly from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a consistent ring from the exterior to the inside of your home. It goes into the house as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and gathers 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 transferred back to a sub-cooled liquid.

The Components

Your AC system is made 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 indoors, in your attic, or in your garage. As warm indoor air is moved throughout the cold evaporator coil, heat is pulled from the air…and the colder air is pushed within your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant returns to the compressor located in your exterior condensing unit. The compressor raises the pressure of the vapor until it changes 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, moving heat to the outdoors, and switches 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 air conditioner is an endless loop of movement. We understand the important thing to you likely isn’t what happens behind the scenes, but that it’s operating the right way. If you’d like to think about the process or just about staying cool, give our technicians a call at 862-345-6896. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to ensure you happy this time around.