man relaxing in air conditioning

How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The temperatures are reaching record highs across the country and many homes are running some variety of air conditioner to beat the smoldering heat. Although we are all appreciative that your air conditioner runs, the experts at Street Heating & Sheet Metal Inc in Rapid City would like to tell you how it works.

The Basics

There’s a lot of science behind keeping your home cool. Your air conditioner functions in a parallel way to your refrigerator, but your AC has a bigger job to handle. Both your fridge and AC cool with a consistent loop of refrigerant, in your air conditioner this refrigerant loops from inside to outside your home. This refrigerant easily converts from a liquid to gas and back to a liquid again. It enters your home as a sub-cooled liquid and as it evaporates it soaks in heat from your indoor air and expands back into vapor. This vapor then travels back to your outdoor unit where the heat is released and is then condensed back into a sub-cooled liquid.

Four Components

There are 4 central sections to your air conditioner unit: a compressor, an evaporator coil, the condensing coil and an expansion valve.

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

Your compressor is located in your outdoor condensing unit. The super-heated vapor from your evaporator coil goes into the compressor which raises the pressure of the vapor until it is converted into hot, high pressure vapor. The hot vapor then goes back into the condenser coil where less hot outdoor air flows across the coil, heat is released outdoors and the refrigerant is converted back into a sub-cooled liquid. This sub-cooled liquid is then returned to the indoor evaporator coil and through an expansion valve or metering device. The process is then repeated.

That concludes your physics lesson of the day…your air conditioner runs on an relentless loop of science. We know that it’s not as top-priority to you how it works, but that it’s working. If you’d like to talk about staying cool and comfortable in Rapid City give us a call at 605-342-5107 or set up an appointment using our online scheduler. With the help of our team and science we’re going to make it through this sweltering summer.