How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The popular season is in full swing with record heat 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 central heating and cooling system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner works the same way as your refrigerator, but understandably rather than keeping a single 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 the inside of your home. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and collects or absorbs 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 transferred back to a sub-cooled liquid.

The Components

Your AC system is made of four critical 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 your home, in your attic, or located in the garage. As warm indoor air is moved across 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 goes back to the compressor stationed in your outdoor condensing unit. The compressor increases the pressure of the vapor until it turns into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor enters the condenser coil where less hot air blows across 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 a consistent loop of processes. We understand the important thing to you likely isn’t what happens behind the scenes, but that it’s working the right way. If you’d like to talk science or just about remaining cool, give our experts a call at 804-302-6657. We will work with you and the laws of physics to ensure you cool this time around.

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