How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The temperatures are hitting record figures throughout the country and many homes are utilizing some variety of air conditioner to battle the smoldering heat. While we are all grateful that your air conditioner works, the experts at O'Brien Heating & Air Conditioning in the Main Line would like to tell you how it works.

The Basics

There’s plenty of science regarding keeping your home cool. Your air conditioner operates in a comparable way to your refrigerator, of course your AC has a larger responsibility to manage. Both your fridge and AC cool with a consistent loop of refrigerant, in your air conditioner this refrigerant loops from inside to outside your home. This refrigerant effortlessly alters from a liquid to gas and back to a liquid again. It enters your home as a sub-cooled liquid and as it evaporates it soaks in heat from your indoor air and expands back into vapor. This vapor then moves back to your outdoor unit where the heat is freed and is then condensed back into a sub-cooled liquid.

Four Components

There are 4 central sections to your air conditioner unit: a compressor, an evaporator coil, the condensing coil and an expansion valve.

The evaporator coil is the location your refrigerant evaporates from a sub-cooled liquid into a super-heated vapor. This component can be found inside your home, in your garage or sometimes in your attic. Warm air transports across the cold evaporator coil and the heat is removed from the air. This cooled air is then transferred throughout your home.

Your compressor is located in your outdoor condensing unit. The super-heated vapor from your evaporator coil goes into the compressor which increases the pressure of the vapor until it is converted into hot, high pressure vapor. The hot vapor then goes back into the condenser coil where less hot outdoor air flows across the coil, heat is released outdoors and the refrigerant is converted back into a sub-cooled liquid. This sub-cooled liquid is then returned to the indoor evaporator coil and through an expansion valve or metering device. The process is then repeated.

That concludes your physics lesson of the day…your air conditioner runs on an endless loop of science. We know that it’s not as top-priority to you how it works, but that it’s working. If you’d like to chat about staying cool and comfortable in the Main Line give us a call at 610-257-7035 or set up an appointment using our online scheduler. With the help of our team and science we’re going to make it through this sweltering summer.

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