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How Does My Air Conditioner Work?

How air conditioning units work

Your air conditioner and refrigerator work the same way! But instead of cooling just the small, insulated space inside of a refrigerator, an air conditioner cools a room, a whole house, or an entire business. Air conditioners use chemicals (Refrigerants like R-22 or R-410A are examples) that easily convert from a gas to a liquid and back again. This chemical is used to transfer heat from the air inside of a home to the outside air.

An AC has three main parts: a compressor, a condenser, & an evaporator

The compressor and condenser are usually located on the outside air portion of the air conditioner. The evaporator is located on the inside of the house, sometimes as an add-on part to the furnace.

The working fluid (refrigerant) arrives at the compressor as a cool, low-pressure gas and the compressor squeezes the fluid. This packs the molecule of the fluid closer together. The closer the molecules are together, the higher its energy and its temperature. The working fluid leaves the compressor as hot, high-pressure gas and flows into the condenser. If you looked at the air conditioner part outside a house, look for the part that has metal fins all around. The fins act just like a radiator in a car and help the heat go away, or dissipate, more quickly.

When the working fluid leaves the condenser, its temperature is much cooler and it has changed from a gas to a liquid under high pressure. The liquid goes into the evaporator through a very tiny, narrow hole. On the other side, the liquid’s pressure drops and when it does it begins to evaporate into a gas.

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As the liquid changes to gas and evaporates, it extracts heat from the air around it. The heat in the air is needed to separate the molecules of the fluid from a liquid to a gas. The evaporator also has metal fins to help exchange the thermal energy with the surrounding air. By the time the working fluid leaves the evaporator, it is a cool, low-pressure gas. It then returns to the compressor to begin its trip all over again.

Diagram of how air conditioning system works to cool a house

Taking a deeper look into the AC evaporator

Connected to the evaporator is a fan that circulates the air inside the house to blow across the evaporator fins. Hot air is lighter than cold air, so the hot air in the room rises to the top. There is a vent where the air is sucked into the air conditioner and enters the ducting system- called return air ducting. The hot air is used to cool the gas in the evaporator and as the heat is removed from the air, the air is cooled. It is then blown into the house through other ducts, called supply ducting, usually at the floor level.

This continues over and over until the room reaches the desired temperature you have set on the thermostat. The thermostat senses that the temperature has reached the right setting and turns off the air conditioner. As the room warms up, the thermostat turns the air conditioner back on until the room reaches the desired temperature again.

Your local HVAC experts at ServiceMark are specifically trained to maintain, repair or install central air conditioning systems for the home, or your place of business. We recommend an annual tune-up to prolong equipment life and help keep operating costs down.

If you don’t think your air conditioning system is running properly, call ServiceMark for fast and reliable service.

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