How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

Summer has arrived with record highs across the country, and with a lot households having some sort of air conditioner, it’s the ideal way to escape the sun. As you are relaxing in your comfortably cool home or office, grateful that your air conditioner works, let’s take a peek at how an average central heating and cooling system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the same way as your refrigerator, but understandably compared to keeping a small space cool, it has to effectively provide cooler air to your whole home. Both use a refrigerant that changes simply from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a consistent loop from the exterior to the inside of your home. It goes into the interior as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and assembles or absorbs heat from the air in your home, expands back into vapor, then back 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 created out of four main parts: 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 carried across 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 based in your exterior condensing unit. The compressor enhances 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 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 repeated.

Your HVAC system is a consistent loop of processes. We know the important thing to you likely isn’t what happens behind the scenes, but that it’s functioning correctly. If you’d like to think about the process or just about keeping cool, give our experts a call at 715-504-0533. We will work with you and the laws of physics to confirm you comfortable this summer.