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How Does Your Air Conditioner Work?

Almost everyone has an air conditioning system these days. However, most people that own an AC system have no idea how it functions. And, knowing a little bit about how air conditioners work can really help you know when to call in the Brothers Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electric HVAC professionals for service, repair, or replacement work. So, let’s explore just how your home air conditioning system keeps you cool all summer.

The Air Conditioning Process

The air conditioning process is relatively simple. Basically, air conditioners pull the heat out of the air to help cool a space. They do this iin a two-cycle process. The two cycles of air conditioner functionality are:

  • Evaporation
  • Compresssion

The Evaporation Cycle in Modern Air Conditioning

The evaporation cycle in modern air conditioning systems is the cycle in which the actual cooling of the air takes place. To accomplish this, your air conditioner passes inside air through a coil filled with supercooled liquid refrigerant. The refrigerant pulls the heat from the air and then fans distribute the air through your ductwork (or directly into your space if you have a ductless split air conditioning system). After the air has been cooled, your air conditioning system sends the now gaseous refrigerant to the compression side of the system.

The Compression Cycle in Modern Air Conditioning

The compression cycle is the second main operation cycle in modern air conditioning systems. It works in almost the exact opposite way that the evaporation cycle does.

During this cycle, two things happen. The first thing that happens is that your system will pull outside air through what is known as the condensing coil. This coil contains the gaseous refrigerant from the evaporation cycle. When the outside air is pulled through the coil, the heat from the gaseous refrigerant is transferred to the air. This begins transforming the gaseous refrigerant back to its original liquid form.

However, the coil itself is not enough to fully compress the refrigerant. That is why modern air conditioning systems also use a device known as a compressor to finish the job of transforming the refrigerant back to a supercooled liquid. Then, once the compression cycle is complete, the refrigerant is transported back to the evaporator side of the machine to start the process all over again.