How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

The popular season has arrived with record highs 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 relaxing in your comfortably cool home or office, appreciating that your air conditioner functions, let’s gain some insight at how a typical AC system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the similar to your refrigerator, but understandably 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 regular circle from the exterior to indoors. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and collects or soaks up heat from the air within your house, expands back into vapor, then back 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 built of four key 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 situated in the garage. As warm indoor air is blown throughout the cold evaporator coil, heat is detached from the air…and the cooled air is pushed throughout your indoor space.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant goes back 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 smaller amount hot air blows across the coil, eliminating the heat to the outdoors, and returns 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 redone.

Your air conditioner is a constant loop of movement. We understand the important thing to you likely isn’t what happens behind the scenes, but that it’s working successfully. If you’d like to know the inner workings or just about keeping cool, give our experts a call at 724-401-1843. We will team up with you and the laws of physics to ensure you comfortable this summer.