How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The popular season has arrived with record highs across the country, and with a lot households having some kind 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 runs well, let’s look at how an average cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the same way as your refrigerator, but clearly compared to keeping a little space cool, it has to work to cool down your whole house. 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 loop from the outdoors to indoors. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and gathers or soaks up heat from the air in your home, expands back into vapor, then returns to the outside condensing unit where it dissipates the heat and is switched back to a sub-cooled liquid.

The Components

Your AC system is built of four key 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 throughout 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 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, eliminating the heat to the outdoors, and changes 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 repeated.

Your air conditioner 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 630-570-0252. We will team up with you and the laws of physics to keep you cool this time around.

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