How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The popular season is here with record highs across the country, and with the vast majority of homes having some sort of air conditioner, it’s the ideal way to beat the heat. As you are sitting in your comfortably cool home or office, appreciating that your air conditioner functions, let’s look at how a typical cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the same way as your refrigerator, but obviously rather than keeping a little space cool, it has to effectively provide cooler air to your whole home. Both use a refrigerant that changes simply from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a constant loop from the exterior to indoors. It goes into the house 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 built of four main components: 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, in your attic, or in your garage. As warm indoor air is carried across the cold evaporator coil, heat is detached from the air…and the cooled air is driven among your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant flows to the compressor based in your outside condensing unit. The compressor increases 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 past the coil, eliminating the heat to the outdoors, and changes the refrigerant to a sub-cooled liquid. The sub-cooled liquid refrigerant is returned to the indoor evaporator coil where, through an expansion valve or metering device, the process is replicated.

Your AC system is a constant loop of physics at work. We know the important thing to you likely isn’t what happens behind the scenes, but that it’s operating successfully. If you’d like to know the inner workings or just about staying cool, give our professionals a call at 478-202-3076. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to confirm you happy this season.

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