How Do Air Conditioners Work?

How do air conditioners work? We'll explain. Read about how modern AC units function efficiently to cool any space in your home.

Air Conditioners: How Does AC Work?

All home appliances are necessary, but some are more necessary than others. And air conditioners are one of the most necessary of them all. What else would we do during those sweltering weeks when Mother Nature decides to turn the mercury up to furnace-like levels with no respite for days on end?

Or without the relief of being able to turn our homes into a cool haven safe from scorching temperatures outside?

It’s the air conditioner’s very ability to make us feel comfortable and rescue us from having to wait on nature’s benevolence which has made it a firm favorite in our homes.

And today, we shall be taking a look at how it accomplishes that mini-miracle, in short, simple steps. And once you get to the end, you’ll come away knowing just a little bit more about the world’s favorite appliance.

How air conditioners cool the air in your home

There probably aren’t that many sensations as delightful as that cool blast which hits you when you step inside from the summer heat. But what is the most surprising of all is that the process by which your air conditioner does it all is rather simple. Fun fact: It’s also pretty similar to that used by another much-loved appliance - your refrigerator.

And if you’ve ever wondered, while relaxing in your favorite chair, sipping on a cool drink, how it does it all, you’ll be able to find out in today’s post which takes a closer look at everyone’s favorite appliance.

What your air conditioner is made of

Although there’s no way of telling from the outside, your air conditioner contains a very special fluid. It’s also made of four essential components which each get to play a key role in converting warm air into cool air and releasing it in your home. These are:

  • Refrigerant: The one single connection between the air conditioner’s parts, it’s responsible for absorbing the heat from the air and transporting it through the unit until it’s dispersed outside. It’s able to do so thanks to an uncanny ability to swap states at will and turns from a gas to a liquid and back again throughout the entire process.  Once upon a time, refrigerants happened to be made from chemicals known as HCFCs, short for hydrochlorofluorocarbons. However, their tendency to inflict damage on the ozone layer meant they had to be phased out in favor of more environmentally friendly HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons). If you have an air conditioner, the refrigerant it contains is likely to be Freon, Puron or any other variety produced by leading brands.
  • Evaporator: This is the part which you get to see indoors. It’s also where the heat from the air in your home gets sucked out while fresh cool, drier air is released to lower ambient temperatures to a more comfortable level. The evaporator contains a fan, fins as well as coils through which the refrigerant passes.  It’s also here that the refrigerant turns to gas due to the heat it absorbs from the air sucked in.
  • Compressor: This is the next port of call for the heat which has been extracted from your home once it’s been absorbed through the evaporator. Its job consists of exerting additional pressure on the refrigerant in order to raise its temperature to enable the process of heat elimination to continue smoothly.
  • Condenser: Like the compressor, the condenser is located outside your home. It’s here that the refrigerant switches back into liquid form once again while the heat absorbed from your home and created in the compressor is released outside with the aid of fins and a fan to ensure it all proceeds efficiently.
  • Expansion Valve: This miniature opening which can be found between the evaporator and the condenser is also known as a throttling device. Its main role consists of monitoring the quantity of refrigerant which is transferred between the two components.

How The AC Cooling Process Works

It all starts when the hot air from your home comes in contact with the evaporator coils, exchanging its heat with the liquid refrigerant. As a result of this process, the chemical turns into a gas.

In addition to eliminating heat, your air conditioner also functions as a dehumidifier of sorts since it also gets rid of any moisture in the air too.

Now in gaseous form, the refrigerant makes its way to the compressor which exerts additional pressure on it resulting in an increase in temperature.

Its next stop is the condenser where all the heat is dispersed outdoors with the aid of metal fins and a fan. Here the refrigerant becomes a liquid once again and is ready to go back through the expansion valve where the process will begin all over again.

Conclusion: How Simple Air Conditioners Really Are

Who could have guessed that it was all so simple? That the function of our very favorite device could be summed up as a chemical making the rounds between its main components which all play a role in changing it from gas to liquid and back again in order to facilitate heat transfer?

But the best things in life often seem to come with a charming simplicity, as well as a pleasant surprise or two: such as air conditioners’ ability to cool and dehumidify all at once, not to mention their similarity to another all-time favorite: refrigerators.

And now you know a bit more about these devices which sit at the top of the necessity chain, there’s no doubt that that blast of cool air on a hot afternoon might just feel extra refreshing.

Resources— Home Tips, AC & Heating Connect, Howard Air, LiveScience