How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The popular season is in full swing with record temps across the country, and with the vast majority of homes having some type of air conditioner, it’s the most effective way to beat the heat. As you are sitting in your comfortably cool home or office, appreciating that your air conditioner runs well, let’s gain some insight at how a normal central heating and cooling system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the same way as your refrigerator, but clearly instead of keeping a little space cool, it has to cool your entire home. Both use a refrigerant that adapts simply from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a constant circle from the outdoors to indoors. 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 heads 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 created out of four critical components: an evaporator coil, a compressor, a condensing coil, and an expansion valve or metering device.

The part 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 across the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the colder air is driven among your house.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant returns to the compressor located 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 meets the condenser coil where a smaller amount hot air blows across the coil, eliminating the heat to the outdoors, and returns the refrigerant to a sub-cooled liquid. The sub-cooled liquid refrigerant is sent to the indoor evaporator coil where, through an expansion valve or metering device, the process is redone.

Your HVAC system is a consistent loop of processes. 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 think about the process or just about staying cool, give our experts a call at 816-379-3918. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to confirm you happy this summer.

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