How Does An Air Conditioning System Work?

October 28, 2014 9:14 am Published by

For most people, it’s enough to know the end result of their air conditioner’s operation – cool air enters their home through the vents and the temperature comes down. But what happens when something goes wrong, and you need to have that system serviced? At Air Conditioning Service, Inc., we believe in speaking plain English to our customers, and in giving them the tools they need to understand just what’s happening inside their system. So, we’ve designed this series of posts to help explain how your A/C works, and what all the parts inside are doing.

Basic Principle

Air conditioning works by converting liquid refrigerant to a gas, which absorbs heat, and converting that gas back into a liquid to expel the heat. By absorbing heat inside your home and expelling it outside your home, we can create a cool, comfortable living space in the hottest of climates.

The Refrigeration Cycle

Refrigeration Cycle

Refrigerant continuously cycles through your system during operation. You’re likely familiar with the two parts of a split unit – there’s a large compressor outside, and a unit inside. The compressor begins the refrigeration cycle, turning the refrigerant into a high temperature, high pressure gas. This gas flows through the condenser (or outdoor) coil, releasing heat and turning into a high pressure, low temperature liquid.

At this stage, the liquid transfers through an expansion valve, which brings its pressure down. This low pressure, low temperature liquid flows through the evaporator (indoor) coil, collecting heat from the indoor air before being sucked back into the compressor to start the cycle over again.

The Parts

Here are some common parts you may hear a technician reference. We’ll be dedicating time to covering many of these topics in later posts in this series.

Compressor: this is the engine of the air conditioner, compressing low-pressure gas into high-pressure gas. It is subject to the most wear and tear and many of the smaller components of your system are designed to control or protect the compressor.

Condenser and Evaporator Coils: These coils of copper tubing and the fans move air around them are the mechanism by which heat is absorbed and released by the system. It is important that these coils are kept clean for efficiency.

Filter Drier: Filter Driers remove debris and moisture from your refrigerant, which helps keep your system from wearing out prematurely. Some can be designed to help remove acid (which forms when refrigerant meets moisture). This component should be replaced every time your refrigerant lines are opened up.

Pressure Switch: Pressure switches keep the pressure in your system from being too high, or too low. Either condition can harm your compressor. Pressure switches can also be used to turn your fan off and on.

Contactor and Capacitor: These two electrical controls help turn on your compressor and regulate the amount of energy required to start the motor.

Refrigeration cycle diagram courtesy Wilspec Technologies, Inc.

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This post was written by Air Conditioning Service, Inc.

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