How Does an Air Conditioner Work?


The popular season is in full swing with record heat across the country, and with the vast majority of homes having some type of air conditioner, it’s the most effective way to beat the heat. As you are relaxing in your comfortably cool home or office, thankful that your air conditioner runs well, let’s gain some insight into how a typical central heating and cooling system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner works similarly to your refrigerator, but understandably rather than keeping a small space cool, it has to work to cool down your whole house. Both use a refrigerant that adapts simply from liquid to gas, and back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a constant loop from the outside to the interior of your house. It goes into the house as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and assembles or soaks up heat from your indoor air, expands back into vapor, then back to the outside condensing unit where it dissipates the heat and is switched back to a sub-cooled liquid.

The Components

Your AC system is made of four critical pieces: an evaporator coil, a compressor, a condensing coil, and an expansion valve or metering device.
The component where your refrigerant evaporates from a sub-cooled liquid to a super-heated vapor is called the evaporator coil, which may be inside, in your attic, or situated in the garage. As warm indoor air is blown across the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the cooler air is blown throughout your indoor space.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant returns to the compressor located in your outdoor condensing unit. The compressor increases the pressure of the vapor until it turns into a hot, high-pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor meets the condenser coil where a lower amount of hot air blows across the coil, eliminating the heat to the outdoors, and changing the refrigerant to a sub-cooled liquid. The sub-cooled liquid refrigerant is pushed to the indoor evaporator coil where, through an expansion valve or metering device, the process is replicated.

Your air conditioner is a consistent loop of movement. We realize the important thing to you likely isn’t what happens behind the scenes, but that it’s functioning the right way. If you’d like to think about the process or just about staying cool, give our professionals a call at (832) 501-3419. We will team up with you and the laws of physics to confirm your comfortable this season.

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