How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

The popular season is in full swing with record temps across the country, and with the vast majority of homes having some sort of air conditioner, it’s the ideal way to escape the sun. As you are sitting in your comfortably cool home or office, grateful that your air conditioner functions, let’s gain some insight at how a typical AC system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner runs the just like your refrigerator, but obviously compared to keeping a little space cool, it has to effectively provide cooler air to your whole home. Both use a refrigerant that adapts simply from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a consistent ring from the outside to the inside of your home. It goes into the house as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and gathers or soaks up 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 made of four key pieces: 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, in your attic, or in your garage. As warm indoor air is carried across the cold evaporator coil, heat is pulled from the air…and the cooled air is driven among your indoor space.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant goes back to the compressor based 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 lower amount hot air blows by the coil, removing heat to the outdoors, and returns 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 redone.

Your AC system is an endless loop of movement. We realize the important thing to you isn’t really how it works, but that it’s operating the right way. If you’d like to talk science or just about staying cool, give our technicians a call at 714-855-1717. We will work with you and the laws of physics to confirm you happy this time around.