How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

The summer season is in full swing with record highs across the country, and with many houses having some type of air conditioner, it’s the ideal way to escape the sun. As you are relaxing in your comfortably cool home or office, grateful that your air conditioner functions, let’s take a peek at how an average AC system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner runs the similar to your refrigerator, but understandably compared to keeping a single 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 consistent loop from the outdoors to indoors. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and collects or takes in heat from the air in your home, expands back into vapor, then back to the outside condensing unit where it dissipates the heat and is transferred 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 component 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 located in the garage. As warm indoor air is blown over the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the cooled air is pushed within your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant flows to the compressor stationed 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 less hot air blows by the coil, eliminating the heat to the outdoors, and changes the refrigerant to a sub-cooled liquid. The sub-cooled liquid refrigerant is sent to the indoor evaporator coil where, through an expansion valve or metering device, the process is repeated.

Your HVAC system is a constant loop of processes. We understand the important thing to you isn’t really how it works, but that it’s functioning correctly. If you’d like to talk science or just about staying cool, give our professionals a call at 805-242-9638. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to keep you cool this time around.