How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

Summer is in full swing with record highs across the country, and with a lot households having some type of air conditioner, it’s the ideal way to get out of the heat. As you are relaxing in your comfortably cool home or office, grateful that your air conditioner functions, let’s take a peek at how a typical central heating and cooling system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner runs the same way as your refrigerator, but obviously rather than keeping a single space cool, it has to work to cool down your whole house. Both use a refrigerant that converts swiftly from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a constant loop from the outdoors to indoors. It goes into the interior as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and collects or takes in heat from the air in your home, expands back into vapor, then returns 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 main 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 inside your home, in your attic, or located in the garage. As warm indoor air is carried throughout the cold evaporator coil, heat is pulled from the air…and the cooler air is blown among your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant returns to the compressor located in your outside 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 a smaller 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 constant loop of processes. We know the important thing to you isn’t really how it works, but that it’s functioning the right way. If you’d like to think about the process or just about keeping cool, give our technicians a call at 276-302-0076. We will work with you and the laws of physics to confirm you comfortable this summer.