How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

The popular season is in full swing with record heat across the country, and with a lot households having some type of air conditioner, it’s the most effective way to get out of the heat. As you are unwinding in your comfortably cool home or office, thankful that your air conditioner functions, let’s look at how a normal cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the just like your refrigerator, but obviously compared to keeping a small space cool, it has to effectively provide cooler air to your whole home. Both use a refrigerant that converts simply from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a constant ring 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 the air within your house, expands back into vapor, then returns 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 critical components: 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 situated in the garage. As warm indoor air is moved over the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the cooler air is driven throughout your house.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant returns to the compressor stationed in your exterior 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 past the coil, removing heat to the outdoors, and switches 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 AC system is an endless loop of processes. We realize the important thing to you likely isn’t what happens behind the scenes, but that it’s functioning the right way. If you’d like to talk science or just about staying cool, give our experts a call at 601-736-7362. We will team up with you and the laws of physics to confirm you happy this summer.