Air Conditioners Do a Complex Job: Learn How They Work, and Some Key Terms

Air Conditioners Do a Complex Job: Learn How They Work, and Some Key TermsAir conditioners are called “conditioners” for a good reason. Air conditioning does more than just cool the air. In fact, A/C was invented in 1902 primarily to remove humidity from factories. Cooling the air was just a bonus. The process relies on a basic fact of physics: Heat energy flows from a warmer place into a colder one. Air conditioners pull warm household air over a cold coil that extracts heat. What’s left is interior comfort in your living spaces. Here’s how air conditioners keep your home cool and conditioned:

  1. Household air drawn through the ductwork passes across the surfaces of the evaporator coil. Frigid refrigerant inside the coil has very high heat transfer characteristics and saps thermal energy out of the air.
  2. As warm air contacts the cold evaporator coil, water vapor condenses from the air. In addition to outdoor humidity, normal household activities increase relative humidity indoors. Humid air holds heat and is difficult to cool. Dry air cools efficiently and feels more comfortable.
  3. After absorbing the heat energy and extracting humidity, the refrigerant vapor is now about 50 degrees as it’s conveyed through an insulated pipe to the compressor in the outdoor unit. The compressor concentrates the refrigerant, packing the molecules of heat energy together and turning the refrigerant into a 150-degree gas.
  4. Conveyed from the compressor under high pressure, the hot refrigerant enters the condenser coil and quickly converts into a liquid state, releasing its load of heat energy. The fins on the coil disperse the heat into outdoor air, aided by airflow from the coil fan.
  5. Now reduced to about 100 degrees, refrigerant is forced through a small hole in an expansion valve on its return trip to the evaporator coil. Rapid expansion under high pressure converts it back to a frigid vapor at about 28 degrees, ready to move another load of heat out of your household air and keep living spaces cool.

Since 1922, Paitson Bros. Heating & Air Conditioning has kept the Wabash Valley cool through every Indiana summer. Contact us for more information about upgrading your air conditioning now for years of summer comfort ahead.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Terre Haute, Indiana about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).  For more information about air conditioners and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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    Jeff Paitson Jeff Paitson is a third generation business owner who continues to run the business with the same values that have been passed down from previous generations since 1922.

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    Ethan Ethan Rayburn is a lifelong resident of Terre Haute and a 2005 graduate of Purdue University.

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