How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

Summer is here with record heat across the country, and with the vast majority of homes having some type of air conditioner, it’s the best way to get out of the heat. As you are unwinding in your comfortably cool home or office, grateful that your air conditioner works, let’s look at how a typical cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the similar to your refrigerator, but clearly compared to 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 circle from the outside to the inside of your home. It goes into the interior as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and assembles or soaks up heat from the air in your home, 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 made of four critical 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 in your garage. As warm indoor air is blown across the cold evaporator coil, heat is pulled from the air…and the cooler air is pushed throughout your indoor space.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant goes back to the compressor located in your outdoor condensing unit. The compressor raises the pressure of the vapor until it turns 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 returns 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 air conditioner is a consistent loop of movement. We know the important thing to you likely isn’t what happens behind the scenes, but that it’s functioning the right way. If you’d like to know the inner workings or just about keeping cool, give our experts a call at 631-737-5566. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to keep you comfortable this season.

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