How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

The weather is reaching record numbers throughout the U.S. and most homes are running some kind of air conditioner to beat the summer heat. Although we are all grateful that your air conditioner runs, the professionals at Colvin's Heating and Cooling in Excelsior Springs wants to give you a glimpse at just how an AC system works.

The Basics

There’s plenty of science involved in keeping your house cool. Your air conditioner operates in a parallel way to your refrigerator, but your cooling system has a bigger job to handle. Both your fridge and AC cool with a reoccurring loop of refrigerant, in your air conditioner this refrigerant loops from inside to outside your home. This refrigerant quickly changes from a liquid to gas and back to a liquid again. It goes into your residence as a sub-cooled liquid and as it evaporates it takes in heat from inside the home and expands back into vapor. This vapor then travels back to your outdoor unit where the heat is released and is then condensed back into a sub-cooled liquid.

Four Components

There are 4 main components to your AC system: a compressor, an evaporator coil, the condensing coil and an expansion valve.

The evaporator coil is the location your refrigerant evaporates from a sub-cooled liquid into a super-heated vapor. This component can be located inside your home, in your garage or possibly in your attic. Warm air moves throughout the cold evaporator coil and the heat is taken from the air. This cooled air is then released throughout your home.

Your compressor resides in your outdoor condensing unit. The super-heated vapor from your evaporator coil enters into the compressor which raises the pressure of the vapor until it is converted into hot, high pressure vapor. The hot vapor then enters back into the condenser coil where less hot outdoor air runs across the coil, heat is moved outdoors and the refrigerant is converted back into a sub-cooled liquid. The sub-cooled liquid then goes back to the indoor evaporator coil by an expansion valve or metering device. The process is then repeated.

That accomplishes your physics lesson of the day…your air conditioner operates on an endless loop of science. We know that it’s not as top-priority to you how it works, but that you are staying cool. If you’d like to discuss staying cool and comfortable in Excelsior Springs you can reach us at 816-379-3918. With the help of our team and science we’re going to make it through this sweltering summer.