How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

The summer season has arrived with record temps across the country, and with the vast majority of homes having some kind of air conditioner, it’s the most effective way to escape the sun. As you are unwinding in your comfortably cool home or office, appreciating that your air conditioner functions, let’s gain some insight at how an average central heating and cooling system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner works the same way as your refrigerator, but obviously compared to keeping a little space cool, it has to work to cool down your whole house. Both use a refrigerant that converts simply from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a constant ring from the outdoors 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 within your house, 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 main parts: an evaporator coil, a compressor, a condensing coil, and an expansion valve or metering device.

The component 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 moved throughout the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the cooler air is pushed throughout your house.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant returns 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 past the coil, removing heat to the outdoors, and switches the refrigerant to a sub-cooled liquid. The sub-cooled liquid refrigerant is pushed to the indoor evaporator coil where, through an expansion valve or metering device, the process is repeated.

Your HVAC system is an endless loop of movement. We realize the important thing to you might not be how your AC operates, but that it’s operating correctly. If you’d like to talk science or just about keeping cool, give our technicians a call at (337) 234-2345. We will work with you and the laws of physics to confirm you cool this time around.