How Does Air Conditioning Actually Work?

July 5, 2019

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    We all depend on our air conditioners to get us through the sweltering summer months so much that it’s easy to take these useful appliances for granted. Still, since they have become such common additions to homes, many people wonder how their AC units actually work. 

    Does my air conditioner take air from outside?”; “Can I sleep with the AC turned on”?; “Why is an air conditioner called an air conditioner?”. These are just some of the questions we hear from curious AC owners.   

    If you understand how your AC functions, you’ll be able to maintain your unit properly and avoid expensive repairs. If you’re still having issues with your AC, rely on our superb Scottsdale AC service and enjoy your fresh home with no worries!

    How the AC works in the house

    So, how does your air conditioner manage to cool down your home? Does it just blow cold air? Where does the cool air come from? In order to understand how your AC works, you first need to learn about the main components of your unit. Here’s what makes up a central AC system: 

    • An indoor unit which contains the evaporator
    • An outdoor unit which contains the compressor, condenser, fan, and electrical components
    • Refrigerant lines which connect the two units
    • Ductwork which circulates the air through your house
    • A thermostat for setting the temperature

    Your AC relies on a cooling substance called the refrigerant or Freon to cool down your home. While in its liquid state, the refrigerant passes over the evaporator coils in the indoor unit and turns into gas, absorbing the heat from the air in the process. 

    The refrigerant then passes through the compressor where it’s pressure level is increased. Next, it flows into the condenser where it cools down and turns into a liquid again. The fluid then returns to the indoor unit to absorb heat once more and the whole refrigeration process repeats until your preferred temperature level is reached.  

    Does AC work with heat?

    Did you know that you can use your AC system as a space heater? It may sound strange that a device designed to cool the air in your home might be able to heat it up too, but the process is actually much simpler than you probably think. 

    To understand how an AC can also provide heat, you need to know what a ‘heat pump’ is. In scientific terms, any device that transfers heat from one place to another and can be used to both heat and cool down the same space is considered a heat pump. This means that your air conditioner, freezer, and refrigerator are all heat pumps by definition.

    But how does a heat pump work? Well, now that you know how your AC system cools down your house, then you also know how it can be used to heat it too! All it takes is a process reversal. The flow of thermal energy in the system can be reversed with one additional component: a reversing valve. If you put your AC in heating mode, this valve flips and shifts the direction of the refrigerant, resulting in warm air being pumped into your home and the cold air being blown out.

    The leading Scottsdale AC service homeowners trust 

    Sure, you don’t need to know how your AC functions to be able to use it, but understanding the components of your unit can help you maintain it properly and prevent many common AC problems. 

    However, no matter how much you know, you should never try to fix your air conditioner yourself. That’s what we’re here for! Hire the seasoned HVAC experts at Hughes Air and take a break to visit OdySea Aquarium with your family while they take care of any AC issues you might be dealing with. Contact us today!