How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The summer season is in full swing with record temps across the country, and with a lot households having some sort of air conditioner, it’s the ideal way to escape the sun. As you are sitting in your comfortably cool home or office, thankful that your air conditioner functions, let’s gain some insight at how an average cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner runs the same way as your refrigerator, but clearly rather than keeping a single space cool, it has to cool your entire home. Both use a refrigerant that converts easily from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a consistent circle from the outside to the inside of your home. It goes into the interior as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and collects or absorbs heat from the air in your home, 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 built of four critical components: 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 carried across the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the cooled air is pushed throughout your indoor space.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant flows to the compressor based in your outdoor condensing unit. The compressor enhances 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 less hot air blows by the coil, removing heat to the outdoors, and changes 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 a consistent loop of processes. We realize the important thing to you isn’t really how it works, but that it’s functioning correctly. If you’d like to know the inner workings or just about staying cool, give our professionals a call at 530-885-8081. We will work with you and the laws of physics to keep you cool this summer.

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