How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

The popular season is in full swing with record highs across the country, and with a lot households having some kind of air conditioner, it’s the ideal way to escape the sun. As you are unwinding in your comfortably cool home or office, grateful that your air conditioner runs well, let’s take a peek at how an average cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner works the just like your refrigerator, but understandably instead of keeping a small space cool, it has to work to cool down your whole house. Both use a refrigerant that changes simply from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a regular ring from the exterior to indoors. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and collects 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 transferred back to a sub-cooled liquid.

The Components

Your AC system is made of four critical 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 your home, in your attic, or located in the garage. As warm indoor air is moved throughout the cold evaporator coil, heat is detached from the air…and the cooled air is driven within your house.

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 changes into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor enters the condenser coil where a smaller amount hot air blows past the coil, moving heat to the outdoors, and changes 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 replicated.

Your air conditioner is an endless loop of physics at work. We understand the important thing to you likely isn’t what happens behind the scenes, but that it’s operating correctly. If you’d like to think about the process or just about staying cool, give our professionals a call at 804-302-6657. We will work with you and the laws of physics to ensure you cool this time around.