How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The popular season has arrived with record highs across the country, and with many houses having some sort of air conditioner, it’s the most effective way to escape the sun. As you are relaxing in your comfortably cool home or office, grateful that your air conditioner works, let’s gain some insight at how a normal AC system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the same way as your refrigerator, but understandably instead of keeping a small 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 constant ring from the outside to the inside of your home. It goes into the interior as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and collects 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 transferred back to a sub-cooled liquid.

The Components

Your AC system is made of four main 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 situated in the garage. As warm indoor air is blown across the cold evaporator coil, heat is pulled from the air…and the colder air is blown within your house.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant flows to the compressor located in your outdoor 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 a smaller amount hot air blows by the coil, eliminating the heat to the outdoors, and switches 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 replicated.

Your air conditioner is a consistent loop of physics at work. We understand the important thing to you might not be how your AC operates, but that it’s operating successfully. If you’d like to talk science or just about staying cool, give our professionals a call at 715-345-1979. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to confirm you cool this summer.

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