How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The popular season is in full swing with record heat across the country, and with the vast majority of homes having some kind of air conditioner, it’s the best way to escape the sun. As you are unwinding in your comfortably cool home or office, grateful that your air conditioner works, let’s look at how a typical cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the just like your refrigerator, but understandably rather than keeping a small space cool, it has to effectively provide cooler air to your whole home. Both use a refrigerant that converts swiftly from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a regular circle from the outdoors to the inside of your home. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and assembles or takes in 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 made of four key components: 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 indoors, 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 shifts into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor enters the condenser coil where a smaller amount hot air blows across the coil, removing heat to the outdoors, and switches 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 air conditioner is an endless loop of processes. We know the important thing to you isn’t really how it works, but that it’s functioning correctly. If you’d like to talk science or just about remaining cool, give our technicians a call at 912-208-2470. We will team up with you and the laws of physics to confirm you cool this time around.

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