How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

Summer is here with record heat across the country, and with a lot households having some kind of air conditioner, it’s the best way to beat the heat. As you are sitting in your comfortably cool home or office, appreciating that your air conditioner functions, let’s look at how an average cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner works the just like your refrigerator, but understandably compared to keeping a little 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 regular loop from the outdoors to the interior of your house. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and assembles or takes in heat from your indoor air, 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 built of four key components: 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 indoors, in your attic, or in your garage. As warm indoor air is carried across the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the cooler air is driven among your indoor space.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant goes back to the compressor located in your outdoor 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 by the coil, moving 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 repeated.

Your AC system is a constant loop of physics at work. We realize the important thing to you might not be how your AC operates, but that it’s working correctly. If you’d like to talk science or just about staying cool, give our experts a call at 847-306-8990. We will work with you and the laws of physics to confirm you comfortable this summer.

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