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How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

An air conditioner may seem magical – turning electricity into cold air – but it’s actually based on some relatively simple, clever engineering that’s been in use for over a century.

There are only four main components in an air conditioner when it comes down to it, and you’ll see them in any modern AC system, from large standalone units to small mini-splits. Whether you’re considering an air conditioning installation or already own a unit, understanding how it works is always good.

The Most Important Components in Your A/C Unit, And How They Function

In short, air conditioners function by selectively condensing and expanding a refrigerant liquid, which flows continuously through four main components.

1. The compressor

When the refrigerant enters the condenser coil, it’s in the form of warm gas, containing significant amounts of heat energy from the environment. As the name suggests, the compressor coil compresses the refrigerant – turning it into an extremely hot liquid. This process causes the refrigerant to absorb a lot of heat in the environment, capturing it within the AC system.

(This is also the part of the A/C unit which uses the most electricity.)

2. The condenser coil

Once the refrigerant is compressed into a hot liquid, it goes into the condenser coil. Air is blown constantly over the coil, causing the liquid to radiate heat. This heat is then blown into the outdoors, either directly in outdoor units, or via a vent. In this way, it ‘removes’ heat from your home.

3. The expansion valve

This valve is located between the condenser coil and the next stop, the evaporator. The valve’s purpose is to utilize a difference in atmospheric pressure to force the liquid refrigerant to vaporize. In turning into a gas, it loses most of its heat energy and becomes cool.

4. The evaporator

The cool gas passes through the evaporator coils, which are usually made of copper, causing it to become colder. Fans take the cold air produced and blow it into your home. Then the coolant passes back into the compressor and is ready for another cycle.

For Top-Quality Air Conditioning Installation & Repair, Call in Melton’s Heating!

For years, Melton’s Heating & Air Conditioning has been the name to call in the Salem, OR, area whenever you’re having issues with your heating or air conditioning systems. From air conditioning installation to troubleshooting your heater in the winter to doing custom installs in new homes, we have the experience to build a great HVAC system for you.  Contact us for an appointment.

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