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How do Air Conditioners Work?

Learn about how air conditioners work and the process of creating cool air. 

Do You Know How Air Conditioning Works?

explanation of how air conditioners work

Nearly everyone has an air conditioner in their home. They rely on it to keep themselves and their family comfortable when the temperature starts to rise. It’s an essential piece of machinery that operates day in and day out to keep our homes safe and comfortable throughout the year.

But how does your AC work? Despite being such a critical part of the home, most homeowners don’t really understand the process of filtering and cooling air. Understanding the basics of how an AC system works will help homeowners identify issues early, and know when to call an HVAC technician vs. tackling the problem themselves.

Air conditioning units have multiple cooperating parts. Failure of even just one component, or failure to maintain your unit throughout the year, will cause the entire system to fail. Though many homeowners don’t know how their system works, they sure know when it isn’t functioning.

The Process of HVAC Units Creating Cool Air

The air conditioning process begins with air entering the unit. Step one sees the AC pull in air from throughout the home. Since a machine can’t cool down air by itself, the air is pushed into a section of the system flowing with coolant fluid. The fluid flows through the evaporator coils inside the air handler unit. The air then interacts with this liquid, transferring the heat in the air to the liquid coolant. This process creates moisture as the liquid refrigerant is converted to a gas. Condensate collects on the coils and is drained out of the system.

After the cooling process is complete, the air is funneled into the next chamber. This area serves as a heater, working in direct correlation with the settings on your thermostat. In other words, if it were a chilly day outside, this compartment would warm the air in the home to a comfortable temperature. On blistering days, the thermostat indicates to the unit that not much work is needed in this area.

After the air makes its way through those two compartments, it is finally ready to be discharged. The unit has a fan which blows the air back into the home. With the air in your home now at a satisfactory temperature, the AC has completed its job, right?

Well, the process isn’t finished just yet. The air conditioning procedure causes the coolant that lowered the air temperature earlier to evaporate. This process transforms it from a cold liquid into a hot gas. This vapor is then channeled into a compressor, which separates the heat from the coolant. The coolant itself returns to its chilled liquid form, while the unit expels this newfound heat outside of the home. The coolant is then funneled back to the outlet location of the cycle.

This cycle repeats as many times as necessary until your home reaches the temperature you set on the thermostat.

How to Fix Your AC

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It is this process that enables your home to remain cool despite a high outside temperature, and vice versa. Although this is just a simplified explanation of the process, it is these basic steps that come together to cool your home. If you think your AC unit stopped working and needs repair, you should address it as soon as possible. The less time your family suffers in immense discomfort the better.

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