How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The weather is 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 thought they would give you a sneak peek at how an air conditioner operates.

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 cooling system has a bigger job to handle. Both your fridge and AC cool with a consistent loop of refrigerant, with your AC 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 flows into your house as a sub-cooled liquid and as it evaporates it soaks in heat from your indoor air and reverts 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 indoors, 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 the space inside your home.

Your compressor is located 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 changed 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 released outdoors and the refrigerant is converted back into a sub-cooled liquid. The sub-cooled liquid then goes back to the indoor evaporator coil via 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 know that it’s not as top-priority to you how it works, but that you are staying cool. If you’d like to talk about staying cool and comfortable in Rapid City you can reach us at 605-342-5107. You’ll be able to get through this hot weather thanks to science and the support from our experts.

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