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 sitting in your comfortably cool home or office, appreciating that your air conditioner runs well, let’s look at how a normal central heating and cooling system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner runs 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 consistent circle from the outside to the interior of your house. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and assembles 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 switched back to a sub-cooled liquid.

The Components

Your AC system is created out of four key 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 your home, in your attic, or located in the garage. As warm indoor air is moved over the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the cooled air is blown among your home.

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 changes into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor goes into the condenser coil where a smaller amount hot air blows by the coil, eliminating the heat to the outdoors, and returns 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 repeated.

Your air conditioner 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 staying cool, give our professionals a call at 319-229-2318. We will work with you and the laws of physics to ensure you cool this summer.

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