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How an Air Conditioner Works

Posted on May 8, 2015 by Chris Lancaster

Do you know? Not many homeowners know how one of their most prized appliances actually operates. While it may not be common knowledge, it is the key to becoming an air conditioning whisperer of sorts. To put it simply, it will help you understand common AC system issues, how to fix them, and how to avoid them altogether.

The Parts & Labor of an AC System

Illustration of an Air Conditioner

An air conditioner works similarly to a refrigerator. It transfers heat from the inside of your home to the outside. This informational diagram by is a great way to show you how it works. The main component that makes this all possible is refrigerant. This liquid is unique because it is able to change from a liquid to a gas at low temperatures as it is pumped through your system. This is important because when a liquid becomes a gas it absorbs heat, and when a gas is compressed into a liquid it releases heat.

We start in the evaporator part of your unit inside your home. Here your blower circulates air from your home. That air is pushed across cooled coils filled with cold liquid refrigerant. As the warm air inside your evaporator passes across the cooled coils, it is cooled as the refrigerant inside the coils removes the heat and humidity by absorbing it from the air. This newly cooled air is then blown back into your home.

As the refrigerant continues to move through the evaporator coils, it has now warmed up and evaporated into a gas. The gas refrigerant then moves into the outside part of your unit in the compressor. Here it is compressed into a high pressure hot gas. The gas then travels through the condenser coils, where your condenser fan blows air over the condenser coils, removing heat from the gas refrigerant. As that heat is removed from the refrigerant, it is condensed back into a cool liquid state and the process starts all over again. This process continues again and again until your home reaches the cooling temperature you want, as programmed and sensed by your thermostat setting.

The Takeaway from This New Knowledge

If you learned anything from this explanation on how your system works, it should be that refrigerant is VERY important. If there is a leak in your condenser or evaporator coils it could spell disaster for your system. If you have low refrigerant levels you have a leak. . As you can see, refilling refrigerant is just a temporary fix. Refrigerant levels should remain constant in your system unless you have a leak.

You also want to make sure to keep all of your coils clean and free of debris so that they can effectively cool the air being pushed into your home.

And make sure you keep your vents and outside ac unit clear of any obstructions.

Lastly, make sure your thermostat has working batteries and has an accurate reading. It is what measures  the temperature in your home and signals to your AC system how hard it should be working.

The best way to keep your system healthy is to call in the professionals at Lancaster Brothers Heating & Cooling for regular maintenance on your air conditioner. We have a thorough checklist that covers all the major components of your system. It will leave your air conditioner refreshed and ready to go. Call us at 913-837-2000 for all your air conditioning needs.

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