man relaxing in air conditioning

How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

Summer has arrived with record highs across the country, and with the vast majority of homes having some type 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 central heating and cooling system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the same way as your refrigerator, but obviously rather than keeping a little space cool, it has to cool your entire home. Both use a refrigerant that converts simply from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a regular loop from the exterior to the inside of your home. 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 cooled air is blown within your home.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant goes back 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 across 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 isn’t really how it works, but that it’s functioning successfully. If you’d like to talk science or just about remaining cool, giving our professionals a call at 302-658-2000 or set up an appointment with us online. We will work with you and the laws of physics to keep you cool this season.