How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The popular season has arrived with record temps across the country, and with many houses having some type of air conditioner, it’s the most effective way to beat the heat. As you are sitting in your comfortably cool home or office, grateful that your air conditioner runs well, let’s look at how a normal central heating and cooling system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the same way as your refrigerator, but understandably rather than keeping a small space cool, it has to work to cool down your whole house. 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 circle from the exterior to indoors. It goes into the interior as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and assembles or soaks up heat from your indoor air, 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 located in the garage. As warm indoor air is blown throughout the cold evaporator coil, heat is pulled from the air…and the colder air is blown within your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant returns to the compressor based in your exterior condensing unit. The compressor enhances 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 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 physics at work. We realize the important thing to you likely isn’t what happens behind the scenes, but that it’s operating 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 summer.

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