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How Does an Air Conditioner Actually Work?

Hand adjusting a thermostat

When you call in to Jerry Kelly Heating & Air Conditioning for air conditioner maintenance, have you ever found yourself wondering how an air conditioner actually works? Our experts are are back again, shedding a little light on the how and why of our favorite cooling systems!

Ready to get the cooling system and services you need to stay cool this summer season? Contact Jerry Kelly today!

How does an air conditioner work?

First off, it’s important to note that an air conditioner is less about adding cool air to your home, and more about removing warm or hot air. While you have lots of air conditioner technology out there these days (Central, ductless, heat pumps), for the most part they all operate off of the same basic principles.

They all make use of a chemical that easily and quickly transitions from liquid to gas and back again. These are referred to as refrigerants, though many chemicals fill this role. An air conditioning system makes use of this chemical, by way of various mechanical processes, to move hot air from in the home to the outside.

Science lesson! When liquids convert to a gas, they absorb ambient heat. This process is called phase transition, and your air conditioner depends on this process to do its job! To be precise, phase transition refers to any conversion. Gas, solid, liquid.

It can be very easy to make this all very confusing, so we’ll break down the process into digestible bits by focusing on one part and process at a time.

The Compressor

Both the compressor and condenser are housed (traditionally) in your outdoor unit. The liquid form of your refrigerant enters the compressor in a cool state. The compressor then (of course) compresses this fluid, forcing its particles closer and generating heat. As it heats and, well, compresses, the liquid transforms into a high-heat gas. At this time, it moves on to the next part.

The Condenser

This is essentially a series of coils through which our now hot gas travels. While traveling through these coils, the generated heat dissipates, aided by exterior fans. You can see (and feel) these plainly while standing in front of your outdoor unit. At the end of this coil system, our refrigerant has now returned to a much cooler liquid state, at which time it is returned to the indoor unit.

The Evaporator

At this point, our cool, liquid refrigerant is returning to the home a little at a time in a controlled process. As it is reintroduced to the interior coils, it begins to evaporate rapidly (thus: evaporator). A series of metal fins placed over the evaporator coils become very cool, and fans are used to blow this chilled air into your home through the ducts or other similar delivery systems. At this point, the process repeats until the room has reached the desired temperature (this is what the thermostat is for).

If this whole process sounds familiar at all, you might be interested in knowing that this is essentially how your refrigerator works, too!

AIR CONDITIONER MAINTENANCE IN ST. CHARLES WITH JERRY KELLY

Interested in finding out how to get prime air conditioning and air conditioner maintenance services in our area? Look no further! Our experts carry the skill, knowledge and experience needed to bring you the best HVAC service in St. Louis! Contact Jerry Kelly today to find out more about what we can provide for your home.