You don’t have to be an air conditioning expert to enjoy the cold air that these appliances produce. However, it doesn’t hurt to be an educated consumer when it comes time to repair or replace your home air conditioning system.

A/C systems cool the air via a process that is sometimes called the “refrigeration cycle.” This cycle works in a continuous loop, with all of the steps taking place simultaneously at different points on the loop. Since we have to start somewhere, though, we’ll begin our explanation with the part that keeps everything moving: the compressor.

  • The compressor is an electronic pump located in the outdoor portion of your air conditioning system. The compressor pumps and compresses the refrigerant.
  • Refrigerant is a chemical that is normally in gas form, since its boiling point is around 50 degrees below zero. However, when compressed, it turns into a liquid.
  • The compressed refrigerant turns into a liquid inside the condenser coil, which is a radiator located in your outdoor air conditioning unit. Since it has to cool down considerably to condense, the coil releases a lot of heat to the outdoor air. That’s why there’s a fan to cool the condenser coil.
  • The liquid refrigerant flows through a metal tube to the indoor half of the A/C system, where it passes through an expansion valve. The valve allows it to expand, which means the pressure drops considerably.
  • Since your indoor air is quite hot in comparison to the refrigerant’s boiling point, the low-pressure refrigerant quickly boils back into a gas. It does so inside the evaporator coil. Just like a pot of water must absorb a lot of heat from your stove in order to boil, the evaporator coil absorbs a lot of heat from the air as the refrigerant boils.
  • The indoor blower pushes the now-cold air through the duct system and throughout the house.
  • The refrigerant flows through a second tube back outside to the compressor, where the cycle begins again.

If you have questions or would like to learn more about air conditioning, contact us at Comfort Systems in Wichita.

Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).  For more information about air conditioning and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.

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