How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The popular season is here with record temps across the country, and with the vast majority of homes having some sort of air conditioner, it’s the most effective way to escape the sun. As you are unwinding in your comfortably cool home or office, grateful that your air conditioner works, let’s look at how an average AC system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner works the just like your refrigerator, but understandably rather than keeping a single space cool, it has to effectively provide cooler air to your whole 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 circle from the outdoors to the inside of your home. It goes into the interior as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and assembles or takes in heat from the air in your home, expands back into vapor, then heads 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 built of four critical pieces: 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, in your attic, or in your garage. As warm indoor air is blown throughout the cold evaporator coil, heat is pulled from the air…and the cooler air is pushed among your home.

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 shifts into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor enters the condenser coil where a lower amount hot air blows by the coil, eliminating the heat to the outdoors, and returns 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 AC system is a consistent loop of movement. We know the important thing to you isn’t really how it works, but that it’s operating the right way. If you’d like to know the inner workings or just about staying cool, give our technicians a call at 301-363-4699. We will work with you and the laws of physics to confirm you happy this season.

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