How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The popular season is in full swing with record highs across the country, and with the vast majority of homes having some sort of air conditioner, it’s the most effective way to get out of the heat. As you are unwinding in your comfortably cool home or office, grateful that your air conditioner works, let’s gain some insight at how an average AC system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the similar to your refrigerator, but understandably instead of keeping a single space cool, it has to effectively provide cooler air to your whole 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 regular loop from the exterior to indoors. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and assembles or soaks up heat from the air within your house, expands back into vapor, then back to the outside condensing unit where it dissipates the heat and is changed back to a sub-cooled liquid.

The Components

Your AC system is created out of four critical pieces: 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 inside, in your attic, or situated in the garage. As warm indoor air is blown over the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the cooled air is driven among your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant flows to the compressor stationed in your outdoor condensing unit. The compressor enhances the pressure of the vapor until it shifts into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor goes into the condenser coil where a lower amount hot air blows by the coil, removing 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 HVAC system is a constant loop of processes. We understand the important thing to you might not be how your AC operates, but that it’s working successfully. If you’d like to talk science or just about remaining cool, give our technicians a call at 717-755-4127. We will team up with you and the laws of physics to confirm you cool this season.

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