How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The summer season is here with record highs across the country, and with a lot households having some kind of air conditioner, it’s the ideal way to beat the heat. As you are unwinding in your comfortably cool home or office, grateful that your air conditioner functions, let’s take a peek at how a typical AC system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner works the same way as your refrigerator, but obviously compared to keeping a little space cool, it has to cool your entire home. Both use a refrigerant that changes 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 collects 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 transferred back to a sub-cooled liquid.

The Components

Your AC system is built of four main 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 your home, in your attic, or located in the garage. As warm indoor air is moved throughout the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the colder air is blown throughout your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant goes back to the compressor located in your outside condensing unit. The compressor increases the pressure of the vapor until it changes into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor enters 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 repeated.

Your air conditioner is an endless loop of movement. We know the important thing to you isn’t really how it works, but that it’s working correctly. If you’d like to know the inner workings or just about keeping cool, give our technicians a call at 503-663-8033. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to keep you cool this season.

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