How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The popular season is in full swing with record heat across the country, and with a lot households having some type of air conditioner, it’s the most effective way to escape the sun. As you are relaxing in your comfortably cool home or office, appreciating that your air conditioner works, let’s look at how an average central heating and cooling system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the same way as your refrigerator, but obviously compared to keeping a little 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 circle from the outdoors to the inside of your home. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and gathers or soaks up heat from your indoor air, expands back into vapor, then returns 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 built of four main pieces: 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, in your attic, or in your garage. As warm indoor air is moved across the cold evaporator coil, heat is pulled from the air…and the colder air is blown throughout your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant flows to the compressor based in your outside condensing unit. The compressor increases the pressure of the vapor until it shifts 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 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 HVAC system is an endless loop of movement. We realize the important thing to you likely isn’t what happens behind the scenes, but that it’s working correctly. If you’d like to know the inner workings or just about remaining cool, give our technicians a call at 630-833-1100. We will team up with you and the laws of physics to keep you comfortable this time around.

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