How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The summer season is here with record highs across the country, and with the vast majority of homes having some kind of air conditioner, it’s the most effective way to escape the sun. As you are sitting in your comfortably cool home or office, thankful that your air conditioner functions, let’s look at how an average AC system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner works the just like your refrigerator, but clearly rather than keeping a little space cool, it has to cool your entire home. Both use a refrigerant that changes easily from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a consistent ring from the outdoors to the inside of your home. It goes into the house as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and gathers or absorbs heat from the air within your house, expands back into vapor, then heads 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 built of four critical parts: an evaporator coil, a compressor, a condensing coil, and an expansion valve or metering device.

The piece 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 over the cold evaporator coil, heat is pulled from the air…and the cooler air is driven among your indoor space.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant goes back to the compressor stationed in your exterior condensing unit. The compressor enhances the pressure of the vapor until it shifts into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor enters the condenser coil where a smaller amount hot air blows by the coil, moving heat to the outdoors, and switches 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 repeated.

Your air conditioner is a consistent loop of physics at work. We understand the important thing to you might not be how your AC operates, but that it’s working the right way. If you’d like to know the inner workings or just about staying cool, give our experts a call at 631-246-4029. We will work with you and the laws of physics to ensure you comfortable this season.

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