How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The popular season is here with record heat across the country, and with many houses having some sort of air conditioner, it’s the ideal way to beat the heat. As you are sitting in your comfortably cool home or office, thankful that your air conditioner works, let’s gain some insight at how a typical central heating and cooling system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner works the same way as your refrigerator, but obviously compared to keeping a small space cool, it has to cool your entire home. Both use a refrigerant that adapts simply from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a consistent loop from the exterior to indoors. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and collects or takes in heat from the air within your house, 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 built of four critical 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 inside, 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 throughout your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant goes back to the compressor based 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 goes into the condenser coil where a lower amount hot air blows by the coil, moving 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 redone.

Your air conditioner is a consistent loop of processes. We understand the important thing to you likely isn’t what happens behind the scenes, but that it’s functioning correctly. If you’d like to know the inner workings or just about remaining cool, give our technicians a call at 540-483-5605. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to confirm you happy this summer.

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