How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The summer season is here with record highs across the country, and with the vast majority of homes having some sort of air conditioner, it’s the best way to escape the sun. As you are unwinding in your comfortably cool home or office, appreciating that your air conditioner works, let’s gain some insight at how an average cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the similar to your refrigerator, but obviously instead of keeping a single space cool, it has to cool your entire 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 consistent loop from the outdoors to the inside of your home. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and collects or takes in heat from your indoor air, 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 created out of four key components: 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 indoors, in your attic, or located in the garage. As warm indoor air is moved throughout the cold evaporator coil, heat is pulled from the air…and the cooler air is driven within your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant flows to the compressor located 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 enters the condenser coil where less hot air blows across 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 HVAC system is a constant loop of movement. We know the important thing to you likely isn’t what happens behind the scenes, but that it’s working the right way. If you’d like to think about the process or just about keeping cool, give our professionals a call at 479-226-8196. We will work with you and the laws of physics to keep you comfortable this summer.

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