The inner workings of an air conditioning system elude many homeowners. It’s a mystery to those who simply want cool air on demand during a hot summer afternoon.
To understand how an air conditioning system works, you need to know that gas cools as it expands. An air conditioning system is nothing more than a machine with intense engineering behind it. You can understand the entire system by breaking it down into five key parts: the refrigerant, compressor, condenser, expansion valve, and evaporator coil. Without these five parts, the unit cannot pump cool air into the home.
How an Air Conditioning System Works
To help you comprehend how the average air conditioning system works, we’ve broken down the five key components.
The refrigerant pumps through cooling tubes in the air conditioning system. The material changes from gas vapor to liquid as it begins to collect the heat from inside your home. It then ejects this heat outside. Conveniently, refrigerant has a low boiling point. This means it can change from liquid to vapor at a relatively low temperature.
The compressor is at the center of the entire system. It helps pump the much-needed refrigerant throughout the air conditioning system via a copper loop. The refrigerant enters the compressor as warm vapor at a low pressure point. It then leaves as high-pressure hot vapor.
After the compressor, the heated refrigerant vapor is sent to the condenser. Here, the hot refrigerant vapor is cooled over condensing coils. The coils, with thin metal fins over each, conduct heat. A condenser fan inside blows cool air over each metal fin to speed the process of the cooling vapor. As the vapor cools, it changes to a hot liquid and moves to the expansion valve.
The expansion valve is where all the magic happens. As the hot vapor refrigerant passes through a small opening in the valve, it emerges as low-pressure mist on the opposite end. As the gas expands, it begins to rapidly cool.
The low-pressure cold liquid from the expansion valve runs through the evaporator coil located within the plenum of the furnace. Here, the hot air blows across the evaporator coil, expanding the refrigerant gas as it cools off, which is then blown across the evaporator and circulated through the ductwork of your home.
There you have it! That is the low-down on how a modern air conditioning system operates through five key parts.