How Does My Air Conditioner Work?

In Alberta, our summers may not be as long as we like them to be, but they can sure get incredibly hot. We all enjoy the sun, but nobody enjoys when our houses get too hot for us to sleep or cook or relax. Thankfully, with air conditioning we’re able to keep our homes cool and comfortable.

But what is air conditioning and how exactly does it work?

Glad you asked! Air conditioning is a system for controlling the indoor temperature of your home, and it works using a unique physical process. When fluids are heated, they absorb heat from the surrounding air, and when they’re cooled, they emit heat. The amount of heat transferred is much greater when the fluid changes its physical state (ie. gas to liquid or liquid to gas). Air conditioners utilize these processes by using a fluid called a refrigerant that is able to rapidly condense and evaporate, thereby releasing or absorbing heat from the surrounding air.

The Components of your Air Conditioner

There are 4 basic components of your air conditioner that work to cool the air:

Compressor Compresses the refrigerant to a very high pressure, which raises the boiling point, which helps to eliminate the warmth from the outdoor air.

Condenser Receives high temperature refrigerant in gas form and cools it, changing its state from gas to liquid. There are both air-cooled condensers, which use a series of thin metal surfaces to cool the refrigerant, and liquid-cooled condensers, which cool the refrigerant with circulating water.

Evaporator This is where the liquid refrigerant evaporates into a gas. It’s the evaporation process that absorbs heat from the surrounding air, resulting in cooled air.

Capillary Tube A spiral tube that narrows as it moves from its connection between the compressor and the condenser, allowing for the regulation of the amount of gas that is supplied to the evaporator. 

How Your Air Conditioner Works

Once you understand how fluids can be used to absorb and emit heat, the air conditioning process is fairly straightforward. Starting in the compressor, the refrigerant begins as a cool gas. The compressor compresses the gas, which causes its pressure and temperature to increase.

From there, the refrigerant flows from the compressor to the condenser, and arrives as a hot, high-pressure gas. To cool the gas, the condenser uses either circulating water (liquid-cooled) or a series of thin metal fins (air-cooled), similar to a radiator on a car. As the gas cools, it condenses into a liquid under high pressure and releases heat.

This high-pressure liquid is then fed through the capillary tube to the evaporator. Once it reaches the evaporator, the pressure of the liquid drops, causing it to evaporate back into a gas. It is this evaporation that allows the air conditioner to cool the air because as the liquid changes physical states into a gas, it absorbs large amounts of heat from the surrounding air, cooling it. More radiator-like metal fins aid this exchange in thermal energy, and then the gas is fed from the evaporator to the condenser. By the time the gas reaches the condenser, it is a cool, low-pressure gas, ready to begin the cycle once again.

Connected to the evaporator is a fan that blows the cool air from the evaporator and distributes it throughout ductwork in your home. This process continues until the air conditioner’s thermostat senses the desired temperature and shuts the unit off, leaving your house cool and comfortable.

Air Conditioner Repair and Installation

If you’re having problems with your air conditioning unit, before you call an HVAC technician, check to make sure that the breaker is on. Tripped breakers or blown fuses are common causes of malfunctioning air conditioners. If the breaker is tripped, simply reset it by turning it off and then back on again. However, if the breaker trips again, check the furnace for wiring issues or loose connections.

If resetting the breaker doesn’t solve your A/C problems, the best thing to do is call a professional. Air conditioners are a bit more complicated than they seem, and the last thing you want to do is any expensive, unnecessary damage.

While Canuck’s experienced HVAC professionals can fix any make and model of air conditioner, we recommend and carry Comfortmaker brand air conditioners. Comfortmaker air conditioners are designed to the highest quality, energy efficiency, and reliability, and they come with an outstanding 10-year parts limited warranty.

At Canuck Plumbing and Heating, our friendly and certified HVAC experts have been fixing and installing air conditioners in Fort Saskatchewan and Edmonton and the surrounding area for over 15 years. We love helping our customers stay cool and comfortable during the long, hot days of our Alberta summers. If you’re thinking about installing a Comfortmaker air conditioning unit, or yours just needs a tune-up, gives us a call today. Keep cool with Canuck!

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *