How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

The popular season has arrived with record temps across the country, and with the vast majority of homes having some type of air conditioner, it’s the ideal way to escape the sun. As you are relaxing in your comfortably cool home or office, appreciating that your air conditioner works, let’s look at how an average cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the similar to your refrigerator, but obviously instead of keeping a single space cool, it has to cool your entire home. Both use a refrigerant that adapts easily from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a constant loop from the outdoors to indoors. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and assembles or soaks up heat from your indoor air, 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 parts: 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 situated in the garage. As warm indoor air is blown throughout the cold evaporator coil, heat is detached from the air…and the colder air is pushed throughout your house.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant flows to the compressor located in your exterior condensing unit. The compressor increases the pressure of the vapor until it shifts into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor enters the condenser coil where a lower amount hot air blows past the coil, moving 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 repeated.

Your AC system is a constant loop of processes. We know the important thing to you isn’t really how it works, but that it’s working successfully. If you’d like to think about the process or just about remaining cool, give our professionals a call at 256-574-1300. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to confirm you comfortable this season.