How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The summer season is in full swing with record highs across the country, and with a lot households having some kind of air conditioner, it’s the ideal way to escape the sun. As you are sitting in your comfortably cool home or office, appreciating that your air conditioner runs well, let’s gain some insight at how an average AC system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the same way as your refrigerator, but obviously 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 constant ring from the outside to the interior of your house. It goes into the house as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and assembles or soaks up heat from the air within your house, 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 pieces: 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, in your attic, or located in the garage. As warm indoor air is blown over the cold evaporator coil, heat is detached 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 located in your exterior condensing unit. The compressor raises the pressure of the vapor until it changes into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor goes into the condenser coil where a smaller amount hot air blows across 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 replicated.

Your HVAC system is an endless loop of movement. We understand the important thing to you likely isn’t what happens behind the scenes, but that it’s working correctly. If you’d like to think about the process or just about staying cool, give our technicians a call at 281-713-8304 or set up an appointment with us online. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to confirm you cool this summer.

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