How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The summer season has arrived with record heat across the country, and with a lot households having some kind 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, thankful that your air conditioner runs well, let’s look at how an average cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the just like your refrigerator, but understandably rather than keeping a little space cool, it has to work to cool down your whole house. Both use a refrigerant that adapts simply from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a regular loop from the exterior to indoors. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and collects or takes in heat from your indoor air, expands back into vapor, then back 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 made of four main 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 indoors, in your attic, or in your garage. As warm indoor air is blown across the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the cooler air is pushed within your indoor space.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant flows to the compressor based in your outdoor condensing unit. The compressor increases the pressure of the vapor until it shifts into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor goes into the condenser coil where less hot air blows by the coil, moving heat to the outdoors, and switches 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 repeated.

Your air conditioner is a consistent loop of physics at work. We know the important thing to you likely isn’t what happens behind the scenes, but that it’s functioning successfully. If you’d like to talk science or just about remaining cool, give our technicians a call at 302-658-2000. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to ensure you cool this season.

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