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How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

The temps are hitting record highs around the country and most homes are utilizing some kind of air conditioner to combat the summer heat. Though we are all grateful that your air conditioner works, the experts at Contra Costa Heating & AC in the Bay Area thought they would give you a glance at how an air conditioner operates.

The Basics

There’s plenty of science behind keeping your home at a comfortable temperature. Your air conditioner functions in a parallel way to your refrigerator, of course your cooling system has a larger responsibility to tackle. Both your fridge and AC cool with a consistent loop of refrigerant, in your air conditioner this refrigerant loops from inside to to the external part of your home. This refrigerant effortlessly alters from a liquid to gas and back to a liquid again. It goes into your residence as a sub-cooled liquid and as it evaporates it absorbs heat from inside the home and reverts back into vapor. This vapor then moves back to the unit outside where the heat is released and is then condensed back into a sub-cooled liquid.

Four Components

There are 4 core elements to your AC system: a compressor, an evaporator coil, the condensing coil and an expansion valve.

The evaporator coil is where your refrigerant evaporates from a sub-cooled liquid into a super-heated vapor. This component can be established indoors, in your garage or sometimes in your attic. Warm air passes throughout the cold evaporator coil and the heat is separated from the air. This cooled air is then released throughout your home.

Your compressor sits in your outdoor condensing unit. The super-heated vapor from your evaporator coil enters into the compressor which raises the pressure of the vapor until it is transformed into hot, high pressure vapor. The hot vapor then moves back into the condenser coil where less hot outdoor air runs across the coil, heat is moved outdoors and the refrigerant is adapted back into a sub-cooled liquid. The sub-cooled liquid then goes back to the indoor evaporator coil through an expansion valve or metering device. This continues repeatedly throughout the process.

That concludes your physics lesson of the day…your air conditioner runs on an relentless loop of science. We understand that it’s not as important to you how it works, but just the fact it’s running. If you’d like to discuss staying cool and comfortable in the Bay Area you can reach us at 510-343-9841. Thanks to science and our pros, you’ll get through this hot summer.