How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

We all love our air conditioners. We know they keep us cool and all, but has it ever crossed your mind to wonder how an air conditioner works? The interesting thing about a home air conditioner is that it works in much the same way that a refrigerator does. The main difference is that refrigerators keep a small space cool while an air conditioner unit keeps a much larger space cool.

An air conditioner is an individual component in the overall HVAC system designed to transfer heat energy from air. Air conditioners are central systems that draw in warm air, remove the heat, and then disperse it inside the home.

On a fundamental level, the process follows simple science and a mechanical process. Let’s take a closer look at how an air conditioner unit works.

How an AC Unit Cools A Home

Air conditioners use chemicals to convert gas into a liquid and then back into a gas. The chemicals take the heat out of the air inside a home and transfer it to the heat outside.

There are three key elements to any AC unit; the compressor, condenser, and evaporator. The compressor and condenser are kept on the outside part of the unit while the evaporator is found inside the machine.

Cooling fluids reach the compressor in the form of a gas. The compressor applies pressure to it to pack the molecules closer together. Packing molecules together like this creates higher temperatures and increases energy levels.

How Does an Air Conditioner Remove Hot Air and Blow Cold Air?

The fluid is ejected from a compressor in the form of a hot high-pressure gas. The gas is sent to the condenser. Have you noticed there are fins on the outside of the air conditioner? These fins work like a car radiator by dissipating heat.

The fluid is a lot cooler by the time it leaves the condenser. The gas is converted into a liquid thanks to the intense pressure. This fluid moves into the evaporator and the pressure drops as it passes through. The fluid is converted back to a gas thanks to this pressure drop.

It’s also during this process that the heat is pulled from the air. Heat is needed to convert liquids to gases. The evaporator fins allow for heat to pass into the outside air.

The refrigerant will leave the evaporator in the form of a chilled gas. The gas is sent to the compressor and the process starts again. The evaporator has a fan connected to it that circulates cold and fresh air around the home.

The process is repeated until the temperature inside the building reaches the temperature on the thermostat. At this point, the air conditioner shuts down. It will restart as needed to keep the air cool.

Cool Your Home or Office Today

There are plenty of options when it comes to air conditioning and cooling systems. A portable air conditioner can help to keep individual rooms cold while a more expensive AC unit can cover an entire building. Assess your wants and needs and get the right cooling unit for you.

Steven Cooper

Refrigeration and air conditioning engineer with over thirty years hands on experience.