How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The popular season is in full swing with record heat across the country, and with a lot households having some type of air conditioner, it’s the most effective way to get out of the heat. As you are sitting in your comfortably cool home or office, grateful that your air conditioner runs well, let’s look at how a normal cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the same way as your refrigerator, but clearly instead of keeping a small 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 regular circle from the outdoors to the inside of your home. It goes into the house 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 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 inside, in your attic, or located in the garage. As warm indoor air is carried across the cold evaporator coil, heat is pulled from the air…and the cooled air is blown throughout your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant returns to the compressor based 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 goes into the condenser coil where less hot air blows by 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 replicated.

Your air conditioner is a constant loop of processes. We realize 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 talk science or just about keeping cool, give our experts a call at 843-485-0967. We will team up with you and the laws of physics to confirm you happy this time around.

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