How Does an Air Conditioner Work?
As you may have guessed, your air conditioner and refrigerator work are very similar in how they remove heat from a space. The biggest difference is size; instead of cooling just the small, insulated space inside of a refrigerator, an air conditioner can cool an entire room, home, or office. Your AC and fridge both use a special blend of chemicals (refrigerant) that evaporate at room pressure, converting the refrigerant from a gas to a liquid, and back again.
The refrigerant is what is responsible for the transfer of heat from the air inside your home to the air outside. Your air conditioning system is comprised of three main components; a furnace, a condenser, and an evaporator coil. The condenser is the large unit located outside of your home, typically in your backyard although sometimes they can be found on roofs. The furnace and evaporator coil are located in your home, usually in a closet or in your attic.
The Condenser and Compressor
The compressor is located outside of your home and is responsible for pumping the refrigerant through your air conditioning system. The refrigerant starts at the compressor as a warm, low-pressure gas. The compressor compacts the fluid using a piston, much like the one found in your car. The compression pushes the refrigerant molecules closer together, the closer the molecules are to each other, the higher the pressure and temperature of the refrigerant. The refrigerant then leaves the compressor as a hot, high-pressure gas and flows into the condensing coil. The condensing coil act just like a radiator in a car, its purpose is to help the heat dissipate (go away) as outside air flows through it. When the refrigerant leaves the condensing coil, its temperature is much cooler, and it has changed from a low-pressure gas to a high-pressure liquid.
The liquid refrigerant then works its way to the evaporative coil. Once it reaches the evaporative coil, it is forced through a narrow opening or thermal expansion valve (TXV). That is where the cooling takes place. On the other side of the TXV, the liquid's pressure drops causing it to expand (or evaporate) into a gas. As the refrigerant evaporates, it absorbs heat from the air around it. Think about a boiling pot of water over a stove; the water converts from liquid to vapor because heat is applied to it, it is the same concept and physics with refrigerant. By the time the refrigerant leaves the evaporative coil, it is a cool, low-pressure gas again. It then returns to the compressor to begin its trip all over again.
The Indoor Evaporative Coil
The evaporative coil typically sits on top of your furnace although it is part of your air conditioning system. Evaporative coils are generally constructed of solid copper, although, in recent times some manufacturers have started producing aluminum evaporative coils. Aluminum evaporative coils are less efficient than copper coils; however, they are also less expensive. Heat transfer from the air in your home happens at the evaporative coil. Refrigerant expands (evaporates) in the coil, and as it does, it absorbs heat making the coil ice cold. The fan in the furnace circulates the air in your home across the cool evaporator fins, thus cooling your air.
The cold air is then distributed through your home via your duct system. The process repeats itself until your home has reached the set temperature.
Air Care is Here to Help
Choosing to install an air conditioning system might seem like a daunting, expensive, time consuming, nerve wracking task, but it doesn’t have to be. If you reside in Chino Hills, Corona, Rancho Santa Margarita, Yorba Linda, or the surrounding areas, we can help you determine which heating and air conditioning system is best for you with our FREE In-Home consultation. Give us a call, and one of our skilled HVAC technicians will be happy to sit down with you and your family and discuss your needs and help you find the best AC unit for your home and your budget. We take pride in working hard to ensure not only affordability, but quality and complete customer satisfaction as well.
If you're in Chino Hills, Corona, Yorba Linda, Rancho Santa Margarita, or a surrounding city and have questions about your air conditioner, give us a call today and one of our Expert Technician's will be happy to help.