How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The summer season is here with record temps across the country, and with a lot households having some type of air conditioner, it’s the most effective way to escape the sun. As you are relaxing in your comfortably cool home or office, appreciating that your air conditioner runs well, let’s look at how a typical cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner works the similar to your refrigerator, but clearly rather than keeping a little space cool, it has to effectively provide cooler air to your whole 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 constant circle from the outdoors to the interior of your house. It goes into the house as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and assembles 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 switched back to a sub-cooled liquid.

The Components

Your AC system is made of four key parts: an evaporator coil, a compressor, a condensing coil, and an expansion valve or metering device.

The part where your refrigerant evaporates from a sub-cooled liquid to a super-heated vapor is called the evaporator coil, which may be inside your home, in your attic, or in your garage. As warm indoor air is blown over the cold evaporator coil, heat is pulled from the air…and the cooled air is driven among your house.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant flows to the compressor based 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 by the coil, removing heat to the outdoors, and changes 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 replicated.

Your HVAC system is an endless loop of movement. We know the important thing to you isn’t really how it works, but that it’s functioning the right way. If you’d like to talk science or just about remaining cool, give our professionals a call at 319-524-3714. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to ensure you comfortable this summer.

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