How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The popular season is in full swing with record temps across the country, and with a lot households having some type of air conditioner, it’s the most effective way to beat the heat. As you are sitting in your comfortably cool home or office, thankful that your air conditioner functions, let’s take a peek at how an average cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner works the same way as your refrigerator, but understandably instead of keeping a small space cool, it has to work to cool down your whole house. 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 loop from the outdoors to the interior of your house. It goes into the interior as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and gathers or takes in heat from the air within your house, expands back into vapor, then returns to the outside condensing unit where it dissipates the heat and is transferred back to a sub-cooled liquid.

The Components

Your AC system is built of four key components: an evaporator coil, a compressor, a condensing coil, and an expansion valve or metering device.

The component 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 moved across the cold evaporator coil, heat is pulled from the air…and the cooled air is blown among your home.

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 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 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 physics at work. We realize the important thing to you likely isn’t what happens behind the scenes, but that it’s functioning the right way. If you’d like to talk science or just about remaining cool, give our professionals a call at 812-332-9100. We will work with you and the laws of physics to ensure you cool this time around.

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