How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

The temps are hitting record numbers throughout the U.S. and most homes are running some kind of air conditioner to beat the smoldering heat. Although we are all grateful that your air conditioner runs, the team at Ocean Air Conditioning and Heating in Laguna Niguel wants to give you a glimpse at just how an AC system works.

The Basics

There’s a lot of science behind keeping your home cooler. Your air conditioner functions in a comparable way to your refrigerator, however your cooling system has a more difficult responsibility to handle. Both your fridge and AC cool with a consistent loop of refrigerant, in your air conditioner this refrigerant loops from inside to the outdoors. This refrigerant quickly converts from a liquid to gas and back to a liquid again. It goes into your house as a sub-cooled liquid and as it evaporates it absorbs heat from inside the home and expands back into vapor. This vapor then travels back to your outdoor unit where the heat is freed and is then condensed back into a sub-cooled liquid.

Four Components

There are 4 central sections to your cooling system: 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 located indoors, in your garage or even in your attic. Warm air transports across the cold evaporator coil and the heat is taken from the air. This cooled air is then sent throughout your home.

Your compressor sits in your outdoor condensing unit. The super-heated vapor from your evaporator coil goes into the compressor which raises the pressure of the vapor until it is changed into hot, high pressure vapor. The hot vapor then enters back into the condenser coil where less hot outdoor air moves across the coil, heat is moved outdoors and the refrigerant is changed back into a sub-cooled liquid. This sub-cooled liquid is then returned to the indoor evaporator coil via an expansion valve or metering device. The process is then repeated.

That concludes your physics lesson for now…your air conditioner operates on an endless loop of science. We understand that it’s not as top-priority to you how it works, but that you are staying cool. If you’d like to chat about staying cool and comfortable in Laguna Niguel you can reach us at 949-525-9119. Thanks to science and our pros, you’ll get through this hot summer.