24/7 Emergency Support

How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

The temperatures are hitting record highs around the states and the majority of homes are running some variety of air conditioner to combat the smoldering heat. Though we are all grateful that your air conditioner works, the team at Three Rivers Heating & Cooling in Portland wants to give you a glimpse at just how an AC system works.

The Basics

There’s a plethora of science involved in keeping your house at a comfortable temperature. Your air conditioner functions in a similar way to your refrigerator, of course your AC has a larger job to manage. Both your fridge and AC cool with a consistent loop of refrigerant, with your AC this refrigerant loops from inside to to the external part of your home. This refrigerant quickly converts from a liquid to gas and back to a liquid again. It flows into your house as a sub-cooled liquid and as it evaporates it takes in heat from the indoors and expands back into vapor. This vapor then moves back to the unit located outdoors where the heat is let go and is then condensed back into a sub-cooled liquid.

Four Components

There are 4 central components to your cooling system: a compressor, an evaporator coil, the condensing coil and an expansion valve.

The evaporator coil is the location your refrigerant evaporates from a sub-cooled liquid into a super-heated vapor. This component can be located indoors, in your garage or even in your attic. Warm air moves throughout the cold evaporator coil and the heat is removed from the air. This cooled air is then transferred throughout your home.

Your compressor is located in your outdoor condensing unit. The super-heated vapor from your evaporator coil goes into the compressor which increases the pressure of the vapor until it is transformed into hot, high pressure vapor. The hot vapor then goes back into the condenser coil where less hot outdoor air flows across the coil, heat is pushed outdoors and the refrigerant is changed back into a sub-cooled liquid. The sub-cooled liquid then goes back to the indoor evaporator coil by an expansion valve or metering device. This continues repeatedly throughout the process.

That completes your physics lesson today…your air conditioner operates on an never-ending loop of science. We understand that it’s not as crucial to you how it works, but that it’s working. If you’d like to chat about staying cool and comfortable in Portland contact us at 503-213-4433. You’ll be able to get through this hot weather thanks to science and the support from our experts.