How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The summer season has arrived with record highs across the country, and with the vast majority of homes having some kind of air conditioner, it’s the most effective way to get out of the heat. As you are unwinding in your comfortably cool home or office, appreciating that your air conditioner works, let’s look at how an average cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the just like your refrigerator, but clearly instead of keeping a small space cool, it has to work to cool down your whole house. Both use a refrigerant that changes easily from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a regular circle from the exterior to the inside of your home. It goes into the interior as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and gathers or takes in heat from your indoor air, expands back into vapor, then heads 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 made 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 indoors, in your attic, or in your garage. As warm indoor air is moved throughout the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the cooler air is pushed throughout your house.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant flows to the compressor stationed in your outside condensing unit. The compressor increases 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 lower amount hot air blows across the coil, moving heat to the outdoors, and switches 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 an endless loop of movement. We know 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 think about the process or just about remaining cool, give our technicians a call at 661-437-3499. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to keep you happy this time around.

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