How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The summer season is here with record highs across the country, and with the vast majority of homes having some type of air conditioner, it’s the best way to escape the sun. As you are relaxing in your comfortably cool home or office, grateful that your air conditioner functions, let’s look at how a normal central heating and cooling system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner works the similar to your refrigerator, but understandably compared to keeping a little space cool, it has to effectively provide cooler air to your whole home. Both use a refrigerant that converts easily from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a constant ring from the outside to the interior of your house. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and collects or absorbs heat from the air in your home, 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 made of four main parts: 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 blown over the cold evaporator coil, heat is pulled from the air…and the colder air is pushed within your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant returns to the compressor stationed in your outdoor condensing unit. The compressor raises the pressure of the vapor until it shifts into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor meets the condenser coil where less hot air blows by the coil, removing heat to the outdoors, and changes 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 movement. We realize the important thing to you might not be how your AC operates, but that it’s functioning correctly. If you’d like to talk science or just about staying cool, give our professionals a call at 309-762-3641. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to confirm you happy this season.

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