How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The popular season is here with record heat 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, thankful that your air conditioner runs well, let’s gain some insight at how a typical AC system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner works the same way as your refrigerator, but obviously compared to keeping a single space cool, it has to effectively provide cooler air to your whole home. Both use a refrigerant that converts easily from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a regular ring from the exterior to the interior of your house. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and collects or absorbs heat from your indoor air, expands back into vapor, then heads 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 made of four main 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 moved over the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the cooled air is pushed among your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant goes back to the compressor stationed in your exterior condensing unit. The compressor increases the pressure of the vapor until it turns into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor goes into the condenser coil where less hot air blows past the coil, removing heat to the outdoors, and changes 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 redone.

Your AC system is a consistent loop of processes. We understand the important thing to you isn’t really how it works, but that it’s working correctly. If you’d like to think about the process or just about staying cool, give our professionals a call at 256-270-1196. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to ensure you comfortable this summer.

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