How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

Summer is in full swing with record highs across the country, and with a lot households having some kind of air conditioner, it’s the most effective way to beat the heat. 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 AC system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the similar to your refrigerator, but obviously instead of keeping a single space cool, it has to effectively provide cooler air to your whole home. Both use a refrigerant that adapts simply from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a constant ring from the exterior to the interior of your house. It goes into the house as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and gathers or takes in 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 key 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 indoors, in your attic, or located in the garage. As warm indoor air is moved throughout the cold evaporator coil, heat is detached from the air…and the colder air is driven throughout your indoor space.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant returns to the compressor located in your exterior condensing unit. The compressor increases 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 a lower 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 pushed to the indoor evaporator coil where, through an expansion valve or metering device, the process is redone.

Your air conditioner is an endless loop of processes. We realize the important thing to you likely isn’t what happens behind the scenes, but that it’s working correctly. If you’d like to talk science or just about staying cool, give our professionals a call at 641-316-9803. We will team up with you and the laws of physics to keep you comfortable this season.

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