How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

The summer season is here with record highs across the country, and with many houses having some kind of air conditioner, it’s the ideal way to escape the sun. As you are relaxing in your comfortably cool home or office, thankful that your air conditioner works, let’s look at how a typical AC system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner works the same way as your refrigerator, but obviously instead of keeping a little space cool, it has to cool your entire 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 regular loop from the exterior to indoors. It goes into the interior 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 built of four main 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 situated in the garage. As warm indoor air is carried throughout the cold evaporator coil, heat is detached from the air…and the cooler air is blown within your indoor space.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant returns to the compressor based in your outside condensing unit. The compressor raises the pressure of the vapor until it changes 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, moving heat to the outdoors, and switches the refrigerant to a sub-cooled liquid. The sub-cooled liquid refrigerant is pushed to the indoor evaporator coil where, through an expansion valve or metering device, the process is redone.

Your air conditioner is an endless loop of movement. We realize the important thing to you likely isn’t what happens behind the scenes, but that it’s operating the right way. If you’d like to know the inner workings or just about remaining cool, give our professionals a call at (815)914-6197. We will work with you and the laws of physics to keep you comfortable this summer.