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Everything You Need to About How Air Conditioners Work

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Air conditioners make life a lot more pleasant, and, if you live in Southern California, you’re probably pretty dependent on them.

Whether you’re using the A/C to keep cool in your home or business, it’s good to understand how air conditioners work so you’re aware of when your unit may need repair.

Read on to discover more about the process of air conditioning and how it cools the air indoors to provide you with a more comfortable environment.


The Compressor is Your Air Conditioner’s Engine

To understand how air conditioners work, you first need to know more about the compressor. This component is the heart and soul of almost every modern air conditioning unit.

In order for the compressor to work, it must have ample levels of cooling fluid. These fluids transform from a gas into a liquid which helps to cool the indoor air.

The cooling fluid, or refrigerant, is typically known as R-22 or R-410A, which is a newer coolant. Both types of cooling fluid are also referred to as hydrochlorofluorocarbons or HCFCs.

The job of the compressor is to take the newly converted low-pressure gas and convert it into a high-pressure gas, which operates at a high temperature. When the gas is converted, it narrows the gap between the different molecules to create energized gas.

After the gas is energized in the compressor, it releases refrigerant inside the condenser. If your compressor is on the fritz, it’s likely that your air conditioning won’t work at all.

How Air Conditioners Work: The Condenser Coil and Evaporator

After the compressor converts the cooling fluid, it needs to then convert the gas back into a liquid. This is where the condenser coil comes into the picture.

A fan fitted into the condenser coil cools down the high-pressure gas and converts it back into a liquid that is transported to the evaporator. The compressor and condenser are both visible on the outside of your home located at the outdoor unit, but the evaporator is found inside the home.

For most air conditioning systems, the evaporator is found near the furnace. This component is typically linked to the condenser using a very thin pipe.

As the high-pressure gas transforms into low-pressure liquid and reaches the evaporator, the pressure begins to decrease again. Once the pressure is at the proper level, the liquid is now turned back into a gas.

All fluid or refrigerant removes heat from the air and cools it down. As the fluid comes out of the evaporator in the form of gas, it gets compressed by the compressor once more. This repeating cycle is what allows all of these components to work together in order to cool down the air inside your home.

Your home or business relies on the evaporator to produce cold air to keep you comfortable during the hot summer months. If there’s an issue with the condenser coil or evaporator, schedule repair immediately.

Other Major A/C Components

After your air conditioner completes the process of converting and cooling the refrigerant, that cool air must be dispersed in order to lower the temperature in your home. The air handler and blowing unit work together, drawing air to the evaporator. This air is then blown out into your house to cool down the indoor temperature.

As the cool air is forced out, it flows through your duct system. The ductwork is typically found in attics and in between floors, and vents are attached where the cool air comes out.

In order to keep the temperature maintained, you’ll also need a thermostat. This unit regulates the heat energy that flows inside and outside of the system.

You can use a programmable thermostat to pre-set it to your desired temperature. If you want to make the home cooler or warmer, just manually change the temperature settings.

The thermostat must be in good working order so that it can read temperatures accurately. If the thermostat is broken, it can affect the way your entire air conditioning system operates.

New technologies like smart thermostats make it easy to control indoor temperatures. Using smartphone apps and Bluetooth technology, you can remotely control your smart thermostat and change the setting at any time.

How Air Moves Through the System

Every component of your air conditioning system relies on the other in order for everything to operate the way it should. Now that you know more about how each component works, here’s a simple breakdown to explain the process.

Warm air is brought into the outdoor unit using a grille found at the base of the machine, and then it flows over chiller pipes. A coolant fluid circulates through the pipes in a manner very similar to a refrigerator. This process cools down the incoming air to help create comfortable indoor temps.

The air flows over an element, and then a fan at the top forces the air back through the indoor element. As the coolant flows through the pipes, it picks up heat from the air that blows past the pipes as it evaporates. When this happens, it grabs the heat from the air and evaporates to create a cooling effect.

While the coolant moves through the compressor unit and the condensing pipes, it creates a cool liquid that cycles through in a loop. This loop is what allows your air conditioner to continuously produce cool air on demand.

When you adjust the thermostat, the entire air conditioning system works to adjust the level of pressure and coolant to reach your desired setting. If you turn the temperature down, the unit works harder. If you turn the temperature up, the system doesn’t need to produce as much pressure to keep temperatures cold.

Check For Potential A/C Issues

If any part of your air conditioning system is broken, you won’t be able to enjoy cool and comfortable air. In some cases, you may just need to have your cooling liquid refilled. An HVAC technician can determine how much coolant you will need to return it to the correct level.

Broken parts will need to be replaced if your air conditioner is on the fritz. Some components are less costly than others, so it’s always a good idea to have your air conditioner inspected regularly to prevent problems before they escalate.

Stay Cool with These 5 Air Conditioning Tips

Now that you know how air conditioners work, it’s important to practice a bit of maintenance to keep your system running smoothly. With regular inspections and some easy steps, you can ensure that your home stays cool all summer long.

  1. First, change your air filter every month. This easy step will keep the entire system operating the way it should. A clean filter will also help to keep your indoor air free of excess irritants and allergens.
  2. Keep your outdoor unit clean by vacuuming the fins regularly. Use a soft-bristled brush attachment so you don’t damage this delicate part of your air conditioner.
  3. Schedule regular inspections so that your system is running the way it should. A professional air conditioning service can check coolant levels and inspect other components to make sure everything is in good working order.
  4. Use a programmable thermostat that turns the temperatures up when you’re not at home. This will prevent your unit from working too hard, resulting in premature wear and tear. A programmable thermostat is also a great way to help you save on your energy bills.
  5. Listen carefully for any unusual noises coming from your air conditioner. If something doesn’t sound right, schedule a checkup right away.


Simple Checks Mean Cooler Temperatures

Make sure the drain tube located on your outdoor unit is clean and free of any debris. If this tube gets clogged, it can cause your air conditioning system to malfunction.

Close all doors and windows whenever your air conditioner is on to prevent it from working too hard. If your air conditioner has to struggle to keep up, it can lead to a possible malfunction. It’s also a big waste of energy, too!

To help keep your home cool, close your blinds or curtains during the day. Too much sunlight can make the inside of your home hotter, which means your air conditioner will need to work a lot harder to keep up.

Check on your ductwork and make sure that it looks clean and open so that air can flow through your home. If your ducts look dirty, consider paying for a professional duct cleaning service.

Enjoy a Cool and Comfortable Home

Now that you know how air conditioners work, you’ll be more aware of what to look for if your system needs attention. Make sure all components of your air conditioner are in good working order and that your coolant fluid levels are where they need to be.

Change your filter every month and have your system inspected regularly to look for any issues. This simple tip can be the difference between a comfortable summer and a stressful one.

If you need HVAC services in the Oxnard, CA area be sure to visit our website and contact us today.

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