You probably haven’t thought much about how your air conditioner works. But knowing a few home air conditioning basics can go a long way toward helping you select the right features during an upgrade.
This guide to your air conditioner’s inner workings will give you a foundational understanding of the equipment and will emphasize features to consider.
Four components are key to air conditioner operation:
- The compressor
- The condenser
- The evaporator
The refrigerant is a chemical that can change form — from gas to liquid to gas — in the cooling process and as it moves through the three components.
- At the compressor, the refrigerant is cool and not at a high-pressure state. Once the compressor starts to work, the refrigerant is squeezed, causing its molecules to become tightly compressed. This creates more energy, which causes the refrigerant to heat up.
- When the refrigerant is sent out of the compressor, it is in an ideal form: hot and highly pressurized, and in gas form. It then moves to the condenser, where heat is extracted from the air. Before it leaves the condenser, the refrigerant changes form once again, and it is a cooled liquid.
- At the evaporator, the refrigerant must squeeze through a very small hole before it can begin to evaporate. As it does, the pressure of the refrigerant drops. The refrigerant becomes a gas again, and in the process heat is extracted from the air surrounding it.
With these air conditioning basics under your belt, you can now learn how certain features maximize the cooling process. You’ll want to look for:
- A thermal expansion valve, which meters precise amounts of refrigerant, according to the temperature demands
- Two-stage cooling system, which allows the compressor to run at a lower speed during mild weather, saving energy while maximizing comfort, with the higher speed reserved for extreme temperatures
- Better coil design, which helps to maximize the use of refrigerant during cooling
With this primer on home air conditioning basics, you can select the right comfort and energy-saving features, boosting your return on investment in the process. For more information, contact All Year Heating, Air & Solar. We have served homeowners in greater Sacramento since 1969.
Our goal is to help educate our customers 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.