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How Does Air Conditioning Work?

Air Conditioning Work

Air conditioning, also known as A/C, cooling or simply air con (UK) is a mechanical system that removes heat from indoor air and delivers it outside. It is part of a family of systems that provides heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). The modern mechanical air conditioner relies on vapor-compression refrigeration. The technology has been around for over 3,700 years, beginning with simple hand fans and moving to ice houses for domestic use during warm weather, which were built into buildings to keep outdoor air cool. Today’s air conditioning Longmont CO systems are much more complex, and the system options are wider than ever, including traditional split system AC units, packaged air conditioners and ductless AC.

Whether you are shopping for new home or commercial AC systems, it’s important to understand the fundamentals of how these systems work, so that you can compare them and find the best option for your needs. This expert article explains how the various components of an air conditioner work together to make your home cool, and includes illustrations and a video.

A traditional split-system air conditioner or heat pump with a large indoor unit and outdoor unit is the most common type of central air conditioner. The five main components of a central air conditioner are the thermostat, compressor, condenser coil, evaporator coil and blower fan. The thermostat senses when the indoor air temperature is too hot and sends a signal to start the cooling process. The air conditioner’s fans, in the air handler or furnace cabinet, pull air from your house’s return ductwork and blow it over the cold evaporator coil. The cool air is then pushed back through the supply ducts and into the room.

How Does Air Conditioning Work?

The evaporator coil is covered with refrigerant, and the fan in the air handler blows over the coils to cool the air. The cool air causes the refrigerant to absorb heat, which reduces its temperature. The refrigerant then moves through the compressor, which compresses it and jettisons the heat over the outdoor condenser coil. This releases the heat to the air outdoors and cools the refrigerant. It is then pumped back over the evaporator coil to repeat the cycle.

The cooling cycle is complete when the air temperature inside your home reaches the set point on the thermostat. The air handler fan stops blowing, and the refrigerant returns to its liquid state. It is then pumped through the house’s ductwork and into the outdoor unit, where it is blown over the condenser coil again. The cooled refrigerant then flows through the condenser coil, where the heat is ejected from the home. The refrigerant then travels to the compressor, where it is compressed again, returning to its liquid state and starting the cycle over.

A variation on the classic system, the packaged air conditioner has its entire unit outside, and only a blower fan is installed in your home. Like a split system, the packaged air conditioner has a return and supply ductwork that connects it to your home’s existing ductwork.


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