How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

Summer is here with record heat across the country, and with many houses having some kind of air conditioner, it’s the most effective 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 same way as your refrigerator, but understandably compared to keeping a little space cool, it has to cool your entire 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 regular circle from the outdoors to indoors. It goes into the interior 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 switched back to a sub-cooled liquid.

The Components

Your AC system is built of four main 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 inside your home, in your attic, or located in the garage. As warm indoor air is moved across the cold evaporator coil, heat is pulled from the air…and the colder air is blown among your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant goes back to the compressor stationed in your exterior condensing unit. The compressor raises the pressure of the vapor until it turns into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor enters the condenser coil where a smaller amount hot air blows by the coil, moving 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 air conditioner is an endless loop of physics at work. We understand the important thing to you isn’t really how it works, but that it’s working the right way. If you’d like to know the inner workings or just about keeping cool, give our experts a call at (616) 669-3961. We will work with you and the laws of physics to confirm you happy this time around.