How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

Man in a suit sitting in front of a fan in Springfield, Oregon.

An air conditioner is a standard appliance in interior comfort. The Energy Information Administration reports that 87% of homes have an AC unit and they account for almost 20% of yearly electricity consumption in the US. At Marshall’s, we believe that knowledge is power – the more you know about the appliances you are using, the more effectively you can operate them.

The modern air conditioner was invented in 1902 by Willis Havilard Carrier. It was invented to solve the humidity problem at a printing plant in Brooklyn. The concept of using chilled water to cool down certain areas predates his invention by centuries, however it is Carrier who is credited with inventing a system of chilled coils to maintain a constant temperature.

There are four main components of your air conditioner:

1. Evaporator – Receives the liquid refrigerant.

2. Condenser – Facilitates the heat transfer.

3. Expansion valve – Regulates the flow of refrigerant into the evaporator.

4. Compressor – Pump that pressurizes the refrigerant.

The Refrigeration Cycle

The refrigeration cycle inside your AC unit starts as a liquid, and then goes through phase conversion to gas. Through this conversion, it absorbs heat. It is then compressed and pushed through another phase transition back to liquid. This conversion cycle creates what we know as modern air conditioning.

Fans inside the unit blow warm air over the evaporator and the refrigerant inside picks up the temperature of the air. As it absorbs, the heat from the air turns into a vapor. The unit blows the cool air out, while the hot refrigerant vapor passes into the compressor and gets compressed to an even higher pressure and temperature. This then flows over the condenser, which turns it back to a liquid, and the heat is radiated away.

Basically, the heat from the air is absorbed by the refrigerant and carried through the AC system to be pushed out the other side, while the cooled air is pushed inside.

Humidifier and Dehumidifier

An air conditioner also works as a humidifier and dehumidifier. As the refrigerant absorbs heat, it also absorbs the moisture from the air.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about the process or would like to schedule service or maintenance on your unit, call us at 541-747-7445 or request service online today.

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