How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

The summer season is here with record highs across the country, and with many houses having some sort of air conditioner, it’s the best way to beat the heat. As you are unwinding in your comfortably cool home or office, grateful that your air conditioner runs well, let’s gain some insight at how a normal cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner works the similar to your refrigerator, but clearly compared to keeping a single space cool, it has to effectively provide cooler air to your whole home. Both use a refrigerant that adapts swiftly from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a consistent ring from the exterior to the interior of your house. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and collects or absorbs 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 key pieces: an evaporator coil, a compressor, a condensing coil, and an expansion valve or metering device.

The piece 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 situated in the garage. As warm indoor air is carried over the cold evaporator coil, heat is pulled from the air…and the cooler air is blown within your indoor space.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant goes back to the compressor located in your outside condensing unit. The compressor increases the pressure of the vapor until it turns into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor enters 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 sent to the indoor evaporator coil where, through an expansion valve or metering device, the process is repeated.

Your HVAC system is a consistent loop of physics at work. We understand the important thing to you likely isn’t what happens behind the scenes, but that it’s working the right way. If you’d like to talk science or just about remaining cool, give our experts a call at 785-357-6200. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to ensure you cool this season.

Back To Blog