How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

Summer is here with record heat across the country, and with the vast majority of homes 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, thankful that your air conditioner runs well, let’s gain some insight at how a typical central heating and cooling system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the just like your refrigerator, but understandably instead of keeping a small space cool, it has to cool your entire 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 consistent ring from the outdoors to the interior of your house. It goes into the house as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and assembles or takes in heat from the air within your house, expands back into vapor, then heads 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 main pieces: 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 across the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the cooled air is driven throughout your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant flows to the compressor based in your exterior condensing unit. The compressor increases the pressure of the vapor until it shifts into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor meets the condenser coil where less hot air blows by the coil, removing 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 an endless loop of physics at work. We realize the important thing to you likely isn’t what happens behind the scenes, but that it’s operating successfully. If you’d like to know the inner workings or just about keeping cool, give our technicians a call at 937-845-1111. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to keep you cool this season.

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