How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The popular season is here with record temps across the country, and with many houses having some kind of air conditioner, it’s the best way to escape the sun. As you are unwinding in your comfortably cool home or office, appreciating that your air conditioner works, let’s gain some insight at how a typical cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner runs the just like your refrigerator, but obviously instead of keeping a little space cool, it has to cool your entire 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 constant loop from the outside to indoors. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and gathers or absorbs heat from the air within your house, expands back into vapor, then returns 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 made of four key pieces: 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 indoors, in your attic, or in your garage. As warm indoor air is carried over the cold evaporator coil, heat is detached from the air…and the cooler air is pushed throughout your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant returns to the compressor stationed in your exterior condensing unit. The compressor raises the pressure of the vapor until it changes 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 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 air conditioner is a consistent loop of movement. We know the important thing to you isn’t really how it works, but that it’s operating the right way. If you’d like to know the inner workings or just about remaining cool, give our experts a call at 815-410-1231. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to confirm you comfortable this time around.

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