How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

Summer is here with record heat across the country, and with many houses having some type 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 look at how a typical central heating and cooling system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the same way as your refrigerator, but clearly compared to keeping a small 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 loop from the exterior to the inside of your home. It goes into the house as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and assembles 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 switched back to a sub-cooled liquid.

The Components

Your AC system is created out of four key 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 across the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the cooled air is blown within your house.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant goes back 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 a smaller amount hot air blows across the coil, eliminating the 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 repeated.

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 staying cool, give our professionals a call at 724-425-5852. We will work with you and the laws of physics to ensure you comfortable this summer.

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