How Does an Air Conditioner Really Work?

Uncover the workings of the central air unit with Sandium. With us, get the best air conditioning service and our expertise in the central air conditioning system!

Updated on Oct 22, 2023
5 min read
How Does an Air Conditioner Really Work?

Willis Carrier invented the first modern air conditioning system in 1902. This changed the way industries and the economy worked. Air conditioning helped boost everything from manufacturing to wartime supplies. It even led to the summer movie blockbusters as moviegoers flocked to air-conditioned theaters for some respite. Air conditioners are available in a wide array of shapes and sizes for anyone in the Bay Area. With that said, how do they really work? Keep reading to learn more!

Basic Mechanism of an Air Conditioner

All air conditioners run on the same premise – they provide cold air inside an enclosed space or your home by extracting the heat and humidity from it. The air conditioner then returns the cooled air back to the indoor space and transfers the humidity and heat outside. Specialized chemical called refrigerant is used by a standard air conditioner.

There are three primary mechanical components – evaporator coil, condenser coil, and compressor. These components work together to convert the refrigerant from gas to liquid quickly and then back again. The compressor works to raise the temperature and pressure of the refrigerant when in gaseous form. This gets converted to liquid in the condenser coil. It travels back inside the evaporator coil, where it evaporates and cools the indoor coil.

A fan blows air across the cold evaporator coil and heat from the house is absorbed into the refrigerator. Cooled air is circulated within the house. Meanwhile, heated evaporated gas goes back to the compressor and condenser coil for repeating the cycle.

Components in a Central Air Conditioning

Majority of homes in the United States has split-system air conditioning or central air conditioning systems. These include the following components:

  • Thermostat for controlling system operation.
  • Outdoor unit that houses the condenser coil, fan, and compressor.
  • Indoor unit that contains the fan and evaporator coil. This can be a fan coil or a furnace.
  • Copper tubing runs between the indoor and outdoor unit for allowing refrigerant flow.
  • Expansion valve helps in regulating the amount of refrigerant going within the evaporator coil.
  • Ductwork circulates air to the various parts of the house from the indoor unit.

Mechanism in Central Air Conditioning

The air conditioning process in central air conditioners involves two actions which run at the same time. One process takes place inside the home while the other occurs on the outside. The exterior unit houses the compressor and the condenser coil, while the interior unit holds the evaporator coil and the fan.

Inside the home or in the cold side of the air conditioner, warm air gets cooled rapidly. It is blown across cold coils that are full of refrigerant in liquid state. Heat from the indoor air gets rapidly absorbed and transforms the refrigerant into gas. The cooled ais is then distributed into the house through the ductwork.

The outside unit is also known as the hot side of the system. Refrigerant is compressed before it enters the large condenser coil in the outdoor unit. Heat gets released outdoors as the refrigerant returns back to its liquid form. A large fan in the exterior unit pulls outdoor air to reject the heat that was absorbed from the house.

Humidity and heat are removed from an enclosed space through the continuous cycle of humidity and heat. Heat and humidity get removed while cool air enters the home. 

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