man relaxing in air conditioning

How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

Summer has arrived with record highs across the country, and with the vast majority of homes having some type of air conditioner, it’s the best way to escape the sun. As you are sitting in your comfortably cool home or office, thankful that your air conditioner works, let’s look at how a typical central heating and cooling system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the same way as your refrigerator, but obviously compared to keeping a little space cool, it has to cool your entire home. Both use a refrigerant that converts swiftly from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a regular loop from the exterior to the inside of your home. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and collects or takes in heat from your indoor air, expands back into vapor, then back 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 main pieces: 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 indoors, in your attic, or in your garage. As warm indoor air is blown across the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the cooled air is blown throughout your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant goes back to the compressor located in your exterior condensing unit. The compressor increases the pressure of the vapor until it shifts into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor enters the condenser coil where less hot air blows across the coil, removing heat to the outdoors, and returns 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 replicated.

Your air conditioner is a constant loop of physics at work. We know the important thing to you isn’t really how it works, but that it’s operating correctly. If you’d like to talk science or just about keeping cool, giving our professionals a call at 704-485-5506 or set up an appointment with us online. We will work with you and the laws of physics to keep you comfortable this summer.