How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The summer season is in full swing with record highs across the country, and with many houses having some type of air conditioner, it’s the ideal way to escape the sun. As you are sitting in your comfortably cool home or office, grateful that your air conditioner works, let’s take a peek at how a typical central heating and cooling system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner runs the just like your refrigerator, but understandably rather than keeping a little space cool, it has to effectively provide cooler air to your whole home. Both use a refrigerant that changes swiftly from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a consistent loop from the outdoors to the inside of your home. It goes into the interior as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and gathers or soaks up heat from the air in your home, expands back into vapor, then heads to the outside condensing unit where it dissipates the heat and is changed back to a sub-cooled liquid.

The Components

Your AC system is built of four critical pieces: 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 indoors, in your attic, or located in the garage. As warm indoor air is carried across the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the colder air is pushed within your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant flows to the compressor based in your outdoor condensing unit. The compressor enhances 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 past the coil, eliminating the 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 repeated.

Your HVAC system is a consistent loop of physics at work. We realize the important thing to you isn’t really how it works, but that it’s working successfully. If you’d like to talk science or just about staying cool, give our professionals a call at 559-900-1170. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to ensure you happy this season.

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