How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

The popular season is here with record highs across the country, and with a lot households having some type of air conditioner, it’s the best way to escape the sun. As you are relaxing in your comfortably cool home or office, appreciating that your air conditioner functions, let’s look at how an average AC system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner runs the same way as your refrigerator, but understandably compared to keeping a single space cool, it has to cool your entire home. Both use a refrigerant that changes easily from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a constant circle from the outside to the interior of your house. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and collects or takes in heat from your indoor air, 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 made of four key components: 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 indoors, in your attic, or located in the garage. As warm indoor air is blown throughout the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the colder air is blown throughout your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant returns to the compressor located in your exterior condensing unit. The compressor increases the pressure of the vapor until it turns into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor meets the condenser coil where a lower amount hot air blows past the coil, eliminating the heat to the outdoors, and changes 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 replicated.

Your HVAC system is a constant loop of physics at work. We understand the important thing to you might not be how your AC operates, but that it’s operating successfully. If you’d like to know the inner workings or just about remaining cool, give our professionals a call at 610-257-7035. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to ensure you cool this summer.