How Does An Air Conditioner Work?

Published On May 21, 2018 | By Clare Louise | Home improvement

Willis Haviland Carrier is credited with the invention of the modern air conditioner back in 1902. It was originally intended to solve the problem of humidity at a Brooklyn printing plant. The idea of cooling down certain areas using chilled water predates Carrier’s invention by centuries, however, Carrier is credited with the invention of a system of chilled coils to maintain a constant temperature.

You are probably aware of the fact that your air conditioner is responsible for keeping your home or business cool when it is hot. What you might not have given much thought is how it works. One interesting fact you should know is that your refrigerator and air conditioner work in primarily the same way. The only difference is that the refrigerator cools a small, insulated space, while the air conditioner cools a larger area such as a room or the entire house.

People often mistakenly assume that the air conditioner works by “creating” cold air. However, this isn’t the case. The whole process of making the air in your home or business a comfortable temperature is based on a very simple scientific principle with the rest being achieved through mechanical means. The following is a brief breakdown of how an air conditioner works to cool your home.

Air conditioners utilize chemicals known as refrigerants to cool your space. The components of the air conditioner work together in unison by converting the refrigerant from a liquid state to a gas and then to a liquid state once more through the process of evaporation.

Refrigerants usually consist of noncorrosive materials that can easily transition between gas and liquid phases at the operating temperatures of air conditioners. Ammonia, carbon dioxide, and chemicals known as non-halogenated hydrocarbons are the commonly used refrigerants. The type of refrigerant used depends on the specific cooling application.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HFC) were used as refrigerants in the past, but CFCs were phased out in the 1990’s while the HCFCs will be phased out of production by 2030 due to their ozone depletion potential.

A typical air conditioning system has 3 key components:

–              Compressor

–              Condenser

–              Evaporator

The compressor and condenser are usually located outside the house. The typical configuration for these components would be to mount the compressor to a base and surrounded by cooling fins and condensing coils. However, they are usually quite noisy and are best placed in areas away from patios and bedroom windows.

The evaporator is usually located inside the house, either as part of a furnace heating system or within an air handler. The air handler is responsible with providing air circulation throughout the ductwork and house. It also houses the fan, evaporator coil, blower assembly, and various other essential components required by the air conditioner.

How Does It Work

Once the refrigerant from bluon corp reaches the condensing unit, it is squeezed by a compressor resulting in a very hot and high-pressure gas. It then travels to the condenser where the cooling fins situated around the condensing coil help to remove or dissipate the heat, which converts it into a much cooler liquid.

The cooled liquid then travels to the evaporator and coil contained within the air handler. The pressure drops once the liquid gets into the evaporator coil. Since heat is needed to convert the liquid back into gas, it draws heat from the surrounding air. Metal fins found on the evaporator coil help with the heat exchange process. The refrigerant leaves the evaporator as a cool, low-pressure gas and travels back to the condensing unit where the process is repeated continuously.

The evaporator coil typically resides within an air handler. The air handler is a housing that holds both the evaporator along with the fan and blower assembly. The fan and blower assembly directs the airflow across the evaporator fins. Heat is extracted as the warm air crosses the evaporator fins and the liquid refrigerant is converted back into gas as part of the aforementioned process. The cooler air is then forced into ducts and distributed throughout your home.

The whole process is repeated until the inside temperature reaches the settings programmed on a thermostat. If the thermostat senses that the desired temperature has bee reached, it deactivates the air conditioner. Once the temperatures within your home rise above the programmed thermostat settings, the system is reactivated to cool the air.

Dehumidification (Moisture Removal)

Besides cooling internal spaces, air conditioners also do dehumidification. The original reason for creating the air conditioner was to get rid of humidity from industrial spaces with the cooling considered a secondary effect.

The dehumidification happens when relatively warm air in the interior of the building is pulled across the cold evaporator coils. The cooling of the building air as it gets into contact with the evaporator coils causes it to release moisture that forms as condensation on the coils.

The condensation eventually drips off and is collected and drained off to the exterior of the building or a sewer connection. The reduction in humidity translates to improved comfort levels of the occupants by enhancing the effectiveness of the natural cooling system of the body.

Air Conditioner Filters

Routinely cleaning or replacing the filters is one of the most important tasks for ensuring the efficiency of the air conditioner. Dirty, clogged filters block the airflow and reduce the efficiency of your system considerably.

If the normal airflow is obstructed, the air that bypasses the filters may carry dirt directly into the evaporator thus impairing its heat-absorbing capacity. Filters are commonly located in the ceilings, walls, furnaces, or even within the air conditioner.

Filters should be cleaned or replaced once every month or two during the cooling season. Filters may also require frequent replacement/cleaning if the air conditioner is used constantly, subjected to dusty conditions, or there are fur-bearing pets in the house.

The information provided above is a basic explanation of how an air conditioner works and how to properly care for it. To ensure maximum efficiency of your air conditioner, it is important to schedule regular cleaning with a reputable, professional, and experienced HVAC contractor.

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