How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

Summer is here with record heat across the country, and with many houses 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, grateful that your air conditioner works, let’s gain some insight at how an average central heating and cooling system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the just like your refrigerator, but understandably rather than keeping a small space cool, it has to cool your entire 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 regular loop from the exterior to the interior of your house. It goes into the house as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and gathers or takes in 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 main components: an evaporator coil, a compressor, a condensing coil, and an expansion valve or metering device.

The part 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 situated in the garage. As warm indoor air is moved throughout 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 returns to the compressor stationed in your outside condensing unit. The compressor raises the pressure of the vapor until it turns into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor enters the condenser coil where a lower amount 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 sent 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 movement. We know the important thing to you isn’t really how it works, but that it’s functioning correctly. If you’d like to talk science or just about keeping cool, give our professionals a call at 925-233-6238. We will work with you and the laws of physics to confirm you cool this summer.

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