Understanding how an air conditioner works may help you to get the best performance and efficiency from this essential appliance. The driving principle behind air conditioners is the removal of heat from the air. Since their invention just over a century ago, cooling systems have increased in performance and energy efficiency, but the central way they accomplish cooling remains the same. It helps to understand the role of some of the components of your AC’s cooling system.
Refrigerant is the chemical that flows through the air conditioning system, absorbing the heat from indoors. For the cooling process to continue, the refrigerant that was previously converted to a gas is converted back to a liquid. This in turn creates extra heat which is then forced outdoors via the condenser coils. This cycle must continue for cooling to take place. The refrigerant is integral to the air conditioning process.
Indoor Air Handler
Split AC systems have an outdoor and indoor unit. The indoor unit is also called an indoor air handler. The air handler cools or heats, and circulates air in conjunction with the outdoor unit or heat pump. What the air handler houses depends on its size. Smaller air handlers may just include the evaporator coil, a blower fan and an air filter. Heat is removed from the air via the evaporator coil that contains the pressurized refrigerant. Air handlers carry air to and from your home via ducts. The air handler’s fan pulls air through the air filter which also removes airborne particulates going through the system.
The thermostat is the unit that controls when the system turns on and off. Recent upgrades in thermostat technology, particularly the development of smart or programmable thermostats, help to make cooling more efficient because they regulate the process more effectively.
The outdoor condenser contains the compressor which pressurizes and transports the refrigerant into the evaporator coil and then sends it into the condensing coil where it cools off. A large fan blows air over this coil to help reduce the heat. The compressor keeps circulating and compressing the refrigerant until the air reaches the thermostat’s setting, at which time the cycle stops and the unit turns off.
While the components of an air conditioner have separate functions, they all work together to capture the heat from your indoor air and move it elsewhere. Keeping the system serviced, and all its parts clean will, help it do its job efficiently with lower energy consumption.
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