How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

Summer has arrived with record temps across the country, and with a lot households having some sort of air conditioner, it’s the best way to beat the heat. As you are relaxing in your comfortably cool home or office, grateful that your air conditioner works, let’s take a peek at how an average AC system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the similar to your refrigerator, but clearly instead of keeping a small space cool, it has to cool your entire home. Both use a refrigerant that adapts easily from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a consistent circle from the outside to the inside of your home. It goes into the interior as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and collects or takes in heat from the air in your home, expands back into vapor, then heads 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 critical pieces: 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, in your attic, or situated in the garage. As warm indoor air is moved throughout the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the cooled air is blown within your indoor space.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant returns 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 meets 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 pushed to the indoor evaporator coil where, through an expansion valve or metering device, the process is redone.

Your HVAC system is a constant loop of physics at work. We understand the important thing to you isn’t really how it works, but that it’s working the right way. If you’d like to talk science or just about keeping cool, give our professionals a call at 313-230-4053. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to ensure you comfortable this time around.

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