How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

Summer is in full swing with record heat across the country, and with a lot households having some type of air conditioner, it’s the best way to get out of the heat. As you are relaxing in your comfortably cool home or office, grateful that your air conditioner works, let’s look at how an average AC system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner works the just like your refrigerator, but clearly rather than 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 regular ring from the outdoors to indoors. It goes into the house as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and assembles or absorbs heat from your indoor air, expands back into vapor, then heads 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 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 indoors, in your attic, or situated in the garage. As warm indoor air is moved across the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the cooled air is driven within your house.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant flows to the compressor stationed in your outside condensing unit. The compressor raises the pressure of the vapor until it turns into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor meets the condenser coil where a smaller amount hot air blows by the coil, eliminating the heat to the outdoors, and returns 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 replicated.

Your air conditioner is a constant loop of movement. We realize the important thing to you isn’t really how it works, but that it’s working correctly. If you’d like to think about the process or just about remaining cool, give our experts a call at 319-208-3295. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to keep you comfortable this time around.