How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The summer season has arrived with record temps across the country, and with the vast majority of homes having some kind of air conditioner, it’s the ideal way to get out of the heat. As you are relaxing in your comfortably cool home or office, grateful that your air conditioner works, let’s gain some insight at how a normal cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner works the similar to your refrigerator, but clearly rather than keeping a single space cool, it has to effectively provide cooler air to your whole home. Both use a refrigerant that changes easily from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a constant ring from the outdoors to indoors. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and gathers or absorbs heat from the air within your house, 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 created out of four critical 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 situated in the garage. As warm indoor air is carried across the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the cooled air is driven within your indoor space.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant returns to the compressor located in your outdoor 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 past the coil, moving 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 functioning the right way. If you’d like to know the inner workings or just about keeping cool, give our technicians a call at 973-884-0065. We will team up with you and the laws of physics to confirm you cool this time around.

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