How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

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Have you ever wondered how your air conditioner can make your home cool even when it’s so hot outside? Learning how an air conditioner works can be helpful when talking to your HVAC contractor about getting air conditioner maintenance (and it’s just fun to know!)

How an Air Conditioner Works

Basically, your air conditioner works the same way that your refrigerator works, only it cools your whole house instead of just a small space. It does this using a refrigerant that easily converts from a liquid to a gas and back (we’ll see how in a bit).

Air conditioners are made up of two main parts: the condenser, which is located outside and houses the compressor, and the evaporator, located inside (assuming you have a split system AC). The cooling process starts when the air conditioner refrigerant enters the compressor as a cool, low pressure gas. The compressor puts pressure on the gas, which packs the molecules together – this raises the energy and temperature of the gas.

The refrigerant gas is now very hot as it moves into the condenser (this is the part of the air conditioner with the fins). The fins help radiate heat away from the gas, eventually causing it to condense into a cool liquid, still under very high pressure. The liquid then moves into the evaporator through a very tiny hole. Once it gets through the hole, the pressure is released and it quickly vaporizes into a gas.

As the refrigerant vaporizes, it absorbs heat from the air around it. When it leaves the evaporator it is a cool, low pressure gas – exactly what it was when it started! It then begins the process all over again.

How Your Air Conditioner Cools Your House

So how does that whole process actually cool the air in your house? Connected to the evaporator is a fan that circulates the air inside your house and blows it across the cold evaporator fins. Since hot air is lighter than cold air, the hot air rises to the ceiling is pulled through the vents and into the ducts, eventually reaching and passing over the evaporator again to be cooled.

Keep Your Filters Clean!

Because air travels through the filters before it moves through the rest of your house, it is extremely important that you clean or change your filters every month. Basically, as the air moves from your house through your ducts, it’s going to collect dust and other contaminants – this is good, because it’s pulling them away from what you’re breathing! Unfortunately, as the filters collect those dust particles, allergens and bacteria, it gets harder and harder for the air to move through them. Remember, poor airflow is one of the main things that can cause your evaporator to freeze! This can lead to serious problems, such as refrigerant leaks that could require major air conditioner repairs.

Now that you know how your air conditioner works, you can take steps to better take care of it so it doesn’t break down. And if you need any type of air conditioner service or maintenance, call Michael Bonsby HVAC & Plumbing today!

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