How Do Air Conditioners Work?
Air conditioners have come a long way. Back when air conditioners were first debuted, in 1902, they were made to only offset humidity. The creator, William Carrier, saw how his invention also cooled the air and decided to keep working on it.
After some time, we have the modern air conditioner. Though it may seem like everything is different, a lot of the original mechanics stayed the same. Here is the answer for all those wondering how do air conditioners work.
Getting Down to AC Basics
The first air conditioner only had a fan and steam coils. Carrier filled the steam coils with cold water and the fan blew indoor air over those coils. As the indoor air traveled over the cold coils, excess humidity and warmth was pulled from that indoor air.
Though modern machines look very different, the principle has stayed somewhat the same. Your home is similar to a refrigerator. The walls of your home act as the walls of the fridge, and the AC keeps your home cool the same way. Cool air is created, it’s kept in place, and the cycle repeats when it’s time to replenish the cool air.
Key AC Parts
There are 6 critical parts in every central cooling system. The whole HVAC system needs more than these parts to function at a high and efficient level, but it couldn’t cool without these components.
- Thermostat – The thermostat tells your entire system what to do. It turns on your HVAC system, sets the temperature and the heating or cooling cycle.
- Evaporator – The evaporator is found inside the furnace. It’s a set of metal coils that cools refrigerant. This cold refrigerant absorbs heat and humidity from the air inside your home.
- Blower – The blower is what sends temperature treated air throughout your home. Without it, air couldn’t make it from your furnace to the rest of your home.
- Condenser – The condenser is the outdoor half of your central air system. Just as the evaporator pulls heat from ambient air, the condenser takes that heat and puts it back into the outdoor atmosphere.
- Compressor – The compressor is what sends refrigerant to and from the furnace and condenser. Refrigerant is a “working liquid” and is responsible for pulling heat out of the indoor air.
- Fan – The condenser fan works in two ways. One, it expels heat into the outdoor atmosphere, and two it stops the condenser from overheating.
How do Air Conditioners Work?
To cool a home, all central air systems rely on two machines. The outdoor condenser and the indoor furnace. Both of them work together to recycle air in your home, make it cool, and keep it safe.
When you tell the thermostat to cool your home, the first thing it does is pull air from inside your home. This air travels through your ductwork and to your furnace.
Once the warm air meets the furnace, it is cooled with refrigerant. The liquid is pumped into the evaporator coil where it cools so much it turns into a gas. This gas pulls heat and humidity from the warm air in your home.
Contrary to popular belief, an air conditioner does not cool your air, instead it removes any heat and humidity.
When the now cooled air is sent into your home, the refrigerant is pushed back outside to the condenser. By now, the refrigerant is an incredibly hot vapor. The refrigerant is compressed, in the compressor, until it turns back into a liquid.
When the refrigerant is sent back into a liquid, the heat transfer process happens to the condenser coil. Heat from the refrigerant is transferred to the condenser coil and released into the outdoor atmosphere.
This process is repeated as long as the air conditioning is cooling. It pauses between cycles and starts up again when it’s time to cool the air.
Types of Air Conditioners
One of the best things about air conditioning is that you have options. At Bell Brothers, we understand there is no “one size fits all” solution. The type of cooling system you choose all depends on your living situation and lifestyle.
Here are the 4 most common types of air conditioners:
- Central Air Conditioning – This is the most popular type of AC system in Sacramento and the East Bay. As we explained, it has two units and follows the process outlined above. Central cooling is incredibly effective for cooling a midsize to large home.
- Mini-Split System – Mini-split systems operate without ductwork. Just like central air conditioning, they have an indoor and outdoor component. The difference is that you have a wall unit that distributes air. This is a good option for older or smaller homes without existing ductwork.
- Window Units – These air conditioning units are small boxes that are installed in a window. They don’t have a lot of power and can be used for cooling a single room or studio apartment.
- Portable Air Conditioners – Portable air conditioners are a bit less efficient than window units. Because of this, we can only recommend them for very small spaces or studio apartments.
If you have any questions about which type of air conditioner is right for your home, don’t hesitate to reach out to the experts at Bell Brothers.