How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The popular season has arrived with record temps across the country, and with many houses having some sort of air conditioner, it’s the ideal way to beat the heat. As you are relaxing in your comfortably cool home or office, grateful that your air conditioner functions, let’s take a peek at how an average central heating and cooling system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the same way as your refrigerator, but understandably rather than keeping a single space cool, it has to cool your entire home. Both use a refrigerant that adapts swiftly from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a regular ring from the exterior to indoors. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and gathers or soaks up 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 critical 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 in your garage. As warm indoor air is carried throughout the cold evaporator coil, heat is pulled from the air…and the cooled air is driven within your indoor space.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant returns to the compressor stationed in your exterior condensing unit. The compressor enhances the pressure of the vapor until it turns into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor meets 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 HVAC system is an endless 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 828-283-0369. We will team up with you and the laws of physics to ensure you comfortable this summer.

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