How Do Air Conditioners Work Exactly?
There are a lot of moving parts involved in making an air conditioner work, and it takes years of experience and education to understand how to repair, service and install cooling systems. However, we believe that every homeowner should have a basic understanding of their air conditioning system, so all our customers feel comfortable discussing their AC unit with a cooling repair technician.
- Air Conditioners Work by Transferring Heat: The basic process keeping your house cool and comfortable is evaporation—the transfer of heat when a liquid changes to a gas. When a liquid is heated, it eventually evaporates and turns into a gas—absorbing the surrounding heat in the process. Alternatively, when a gas is compressed and reverts to a liquid, heat is released as a byproduct.
Since heat is absorbed and expelled, it only makes sense that there are two main components in a cooling system: an indoor unit, where heat is absorbed, and an outdoor unit, where heat is expelled.
- Indoor Unit (Evaporator): In a traditional central air conditioning unit, the evaporator is located in the same place as the furnace, usually the mechanical room in the basement. Inside the evaporator are coils filled with refrigerant. The cooling chemical runs through the coils as air from your home passes over. The cooling compound then transforms into a gas, absorbing heat from the air, and the resulting cool air is distributed throughout your home.
- Outdoor Unit (Compressor, Condenser Coil, Fan): The gas refrigerant then travels outside where it’s compressed back to a high-pressure liquid. As the cooling chemical returns to its liquid state, heat is released and exhausted outside. The refrigerant then travels back inside to the evaporator—and the process begins again.
While AC units are complex machines that take years of experience to fully understand to be able to repair or install, it’s fairly easy for any homeowner to understand the basic mechanics behind how an air conditioner works. Knowing the basic process can give homeowners a leg up in monitoring their cooling system and feeling comfortable speaking with their cooling technician.
If you haven’t yet, schedule your annual AC tune-up today!
For 30 years, Martino HVAC has provided reliable heating and cooling, air quality service and installation to residential, commercial and industrial customers in the Greater Toronto Area and Quinte Regions. We are proud of the service we provide and our commitment to our customers and our community.