How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The summer season is here with record temps across the country, and with many houses having some kind of air conditioner, it’s the ideal way to beat the heat. As you are relaxing in your comfortably cool home or office, thankful that your air conditioner runs well, let’s take a peek at how a typical cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner works the similar to your refrigerator, but understandably instead of keeping a little space cool, it has to effectively provide cooler air to your whole home. Both use a refrigerant that adapts easily from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a regular circle from the outside to the interior of your house. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and assembles 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 main parts: an evaporator coil, a compressor, a condensing coil, and an expansion valve or metering device.

The component where your refrigerant evaporates from a sub-cooled liquid to a super-heated vapor is called the evaporator coil, which may be inside your home, in your attic, or located in the garage. As warm indoor air is moved throughout the cold evaporator coil, heat is pulled from the air…and the cooler air is driven within your house.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant flows to the compressor based in your outdoor condensing unit. The compressor increases the pressure of the vapor until it turns 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, removing 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 replicated.

Your AC system is a consistent loop of physics at work. We know the important thing to you isn’t really how it works, but that it’s functioning correctly. If you’d like to talk science or just about keeping cool, give our technicians a call at 641-753-3563. We will team up with you and the laws of physics to keep you happy this season.

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