How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

Summer is in full swing with record heat across the country, and with the vast majority of homes having some kind of air conditioner, it’s the most effective way to get out of the heat. As you are unwinding in your comfortably cool home or office, grateful that your air conditioner works, let’s gain some insight at how a normal cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner works 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 changes easily from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a regular ring from the exterior to the inside of your home. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and collects or absorbs heat from your indoor air, expands back into vapor, then heads 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 made of four main parts: an evaporator coil, a compressor, a condensing coil, and an expansion valve or metering device.

The piece 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 moved throughout the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the cooled air is driven throughout your indoor space.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant goes back to the compressor stationed in your outside condensing unit. The compressor raises the pressure of the vapor until it shifts into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor enters the condenser coil where a lower amount hot air blows across the coil, eliminating the heat to the outdoors, and changes 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 replicated.

Your air conditioner is an endless loop of physics at work. We know the important thing to you isn’t really how it works, but that it’s operating correctly. If you’d like to know the inner workings or just about remaining cool, give our technicians a call at 614-344-6949. We will work with you and the laws of physics to confirm you comfortable this time around.