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How Air Conditioning Systems Work

Air conditioning is a complex technology that applies the physical law of phase conversion to keep people cool and comfortable. AC units rely on a chemical compound known as refrigerant. This refrigerant changes from a liquid to a gas and then back into a liquid as it cycles through the various AC components. In the process, the refrigerant absorbs heat, which brings down the temperature of the air, and then discharges that heat so that it can begin the cycle again.

AC System Components

An air conditioning system has four main components:

  • An evaporator
  • A compressor
  • A condenser
  • A thermal expansion valve

The evaporator is the place where the refrigerant undergoes its first phase change from liquid into gas. Evaporator coils pick up warmth from the air, and as the cold refrigerant becomes a warm vapor, the surrounding air becomes cooler.

Next, the warm vapor passes into a compressor. In most residential HVAC systems, that compressor is located at ground level outside the home. In commercial HVAC systems, the compressor is usually situated on a structure’s roof. The compressor applies pressure to the refrigerant vapor, which increases the vapor’s temperature even further.

The third stage of the air conditioning process occurs when the pressurized vapor is cycled into a condenser that returns the vapor to its liquid state. The condenser unit is also located on the exterior of your home.

Finally, the liquid refrigerant is recycled back into the evaporator. The liquid passes through a thermal expansion valve, which is designed to depressurize liquid refrigerant so that its temperature drops. This allows the air conditioning cycle to begin anew.

Dehumidifying Air

Most air conditioning systems are also fitted with moisture traps. As hot air circulates over the evaporator coils, the coils absorb the heat and remove moisture from the air. This moisture needs a place to drain.

Fire & Ice Heating and Air in Youngwood, Pennsylvania, can help you with all of your air conditioning installation, repair, and maintenance needs. We also work on heaters. Contact our office today to set up a service call.