There are a few air conditioning basics that every homeowner should know. After all, the more you know about how your air conditioning system works, the easier it will be for you to operate and maintain it properly.
Your air conditioner works in much the same way as a refrigerator. The main difference is that your A/C cools entire rooms rather than just a small enclosed space.
Air conditioners use a chemical called refrigerant to transfer heat from your indoor air to the outside. The unit itself has three main parts: a compressor, a condenser and an evaporator. The compressor and condenser are usually located outside. The evaporator is located inside the house, often as part of a furnace.
The refrigerant comes into the compressor as a cool, low-pressure gas. The compressor squeezes the fluid, turning it into a high-pressure gas. This increases its temperature.
The hot, high-pressure refrigerant then leaves the compressor and flows into the condenser. The condenser has fins that help the heat dissipate more quickly. Once it’s cooled back down, the refrigerant changes from a gas to a liquid. The liquid goes into the evaporator through a tiny hole. Its pressure drops and it evaporates into a gas. By the time the refrigerant leaves the evaporator, it is a cool, low pressure gas. It then returns to the compressor to start the cycle all over again.
A fan circulates the air through the house. Vents near the ceiling catch lighter hot air and suck it into the ducts where it’s used to cool the refrigerant gas in the evaporator.
The cycle repeats itself until the thermostat senses that your inside air is at the correct temperature. At that point, the air conditioner shuts off until cool air is called for again. Knowing these air conditioning basics will help you understand how to keep your A/C operating efficiently, and identify problems as they arise.