How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

The summer season is here with record highs across the country, and with many houses having some kind of air conditioner, it’s the best way to get out of the heat. As you are sitting in your comfortably cool home or office, appreciating 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 similar to your refrigerator, but obviously compared to keeping a small 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 consistent loop from the exterior to the interior of your house. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and gathers or soaks up 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 critical parts: 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, in your attic, or in your garage. As warm indoor air is blown throughout the cold evaporator coil, heat is pulled from the air…and the colder air is pushed within your house.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant goes back to the compressor based in your outside condensing unit. The compressor raises the pressure of the vapor until it shifts 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 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 redone.

Your AC system is an endless loop of physics at work. We realize the important thing to you might not be how your AC operates, but that it’s functioning successfully. If you’d like to talk science or just about staying cool, give our experts a call at 715-301-0256. We will work with you and the laws of physics to keep you comfortable this summer.