How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

Summer has arrived with record temps across the country, and with the vast majority of homes having some sort of air conditioner, it’s the ideal way to escape the sun. As you are unwinding in your comfortably cool home or office, grateful that your air conditioner functions, let’s gain some insight at how a typical AC system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner runs the just like your refrigerator, but obviously compared to keeping a little space cool, it has to cool your entire home. Both use a refrigerant that adapts simply from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a consistent loop from the outside to the inside of your home. It goes into the house as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and assembles or absorbs heat from the air in your home, expands back into vapor, then back 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 built of four key components: 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 inside your home, in your attic, or located in the garage. As warm indoor air is moved across the cold evaporator coil, heat is pulled from the air…and the colder air is driven among your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant flows to the compressor located in your outdoor condensing unit. The compressor enhances 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, moving 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 repeated.

Your air conditioner is an endless loop of physics at work. We realize the important thing to you likely isn’t what happens behind the scenes, but that it’s functioning correctly. If you’d like to think about the process or just about keeping cool, give our technicians a call at 308-646-3827. We will team up with you and the laws of physics to ensure you cool this summer.