How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

Summer is in full swing with record temps across the country, and with many houses having some type of air conditioner, it’s the most effective way to get out of the heat. As you are relaxing in your comfortably cool home or office, thankful that your air conditioner runs well, let’s take a peek at how a normal cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the same way as your refrigerator, but understandably instead of keeping a small space cool, it has to cool your entire home. Both use a refrigerant that changes simply from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a constant loop from the exterior to the inside of your home. It goes into the interior as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and collects or soaks up heat from the air in your home, 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 built of four key parts: 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 in your garage. As warm indoor air is moved across the cold evaporator coil, heat is pulled from the air…and the colder air is driven within your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant goes back to the compressor based in your exterior condensing unit. The compressor enhances the pressure of the vapor until it changes into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor meets the condenser coil where less 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 returned 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 likely isn’t what happens behind the scenes, but that it’s working successfully. If you’d like to talk science or just about remaining cool, give our technicians a call at 318-855-2326. We will work with you and the laws of physics to confirm you happy this season.