How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

Summer is here with record highs across the country, and with many houses having some kind of air conditioner, it’s the ideal way to beat the heat. As you are relaxing in your comfortably cool home or office, appreciating that your air conditioner runs well, let’s take a peek at how a normal cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the same way as your refrigerator, but clearly compared to keeping a single space cool, it has to effectively provide cooler air to your whole home. Both use a refrigerant that converts simply from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a constant circle from the exterior to indoors. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and collects or absorbs 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 changed back to a sub-cooled liquid.

The Components

Your AC system is created out of four key 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 indoors, in your attic, or located in the garage. As warm indoor air is blown across the cold evaporator coil, heat is pulled from the air…and the cooled air is driven within your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant returns to the compressor based in your outside condensing unit. The compressor enhances the pressure of the vapor until it shifts 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 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 movement. We understand the important thing to you isn’t really how it works, but that it’s functioning successfully. If you’d like to know the inner workings or just about remaining cool, give our professionals a call at 724-425-5852. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to ensure you cool this season.