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How Does Air Conditioning Work?

Posted on: September 6, 2021

With Florida’s notoriously hot and humid summers, air conditioning is an essential part of everyday life. But how does it work? Air conditioners use a refrigeration cycle to absorb heat from inside your home and release it outside. The typical conditioning system is made up of six basic components:

  • The condenser coil: A structure similar to a car’s radiator, the condenser coil is located outside the home in the condenser unit.
  • The compressor: Acting as both a pump and a device that compresses fluids, the compressor is usually located outside, in the condenser unit.
  • The evaporator coil: A radiator-like structure located inside your home, either in a furnace’s air handler or a standalone air handler.
  • The refrigerant: A specialized fluid that easily changes from a liquid to a gas and back.
  • Refrigerant lines: A set of tubing that carries refrigerant in a loop from the condenser to the evaporator and back.
  • The expansion valve: A valve that connects the high-pressure side of the AC system to the low-pressure side, just before the evaporator.

There are a variety of other parts, such as fans, filters, relays, and contactors that help these basic AC components do their job, but these vary by system type, brand, and model.

The Refrigeration Process

An air conditioner works by moving heat using a process that is almost identical to the one a refrigerator uses to cool food. Here are the basic steps:

  • In your home, hot air from the room is blown over the evaporator coil.
  • The cool liquid refrigerant inside the evaporator absorbs the heat from the air, causing the refrigerant to boil and turn into a gas. As the heat is stripped from the passing air, the air leaves the AC unit at a far cooler, more comfortable temperature. Plus, moisture condenses out of the air on the cool evaporator, leaving the air drier and far less humid, as well.
  • The hot, gaseous refrigerant leaves the evaporator and goes to the compressor outside, where the refrigerant molecules are pressed tightly together, pressure is increased, and the refrigerant is heated further.
  • The compressor pushes the superheated, gaseous refrigerant out to the condenser, where a fan pushes outside air over the coil. The outside air, which is now significantly cooler than the refrigerant, absorbs the excess heat, turning the refrigerant back to a liquid.
  • After leaving the condenser, the gaseous refrigerant passes through the expansion valve on the way to the evaporator inside your home, where pressure is greatly reduced, allowing the liquid to rapidly expand to a gas. This phase change absorbs the heat from the air, leaving your home much cooler. This process then repeats itself indefinitely.

The mechanical compression and expansion of the refrigerant combined with the refrigerant’s ability to easily change phase are the keys to the refrigeration cycle that cools your home. To continue this cycle, the air conditioning system must be properly serviced and repaired as necessary to maintain the efficiency of the heat transfer process. As an example, things like a dirty evaporator coil or clogged air filter can interfere with heat absorption, allowing the evaporator to freeze and the system to shut down.

AC Repair & Maintenance in DeLand & West Volusia County, FL

When you want to keep your air conditioning system running as smoothly and efficiently as possible, talk to our team at Jacob Heating & Air Conditioning.

We can provide air conditioning maintenance and repairs to keep your AC unit operating at its best. When your system is too old, inefficient, or expensive to repair, we also offer complete AC replacements and new installations.

Our company was founded in 1921. With over 100 years of experience, some of the best technicians in the business, and a one-year warranty on all AC repairs, you can count on us for great service and professional results.

Call 386) 337-3502 today or contact us online to schedule AC service and repairs anywhere in Deltona, DeLand, Pine Lakes, West Volusia County, or the surrounding areas.