Air conditioners are wonderful inventions. They allow us to stay cool during an otherwise miserably hot summer, and they provide us one of our most granted luxuries. So many of us take our air conditioning systems for granted, but how many of us actually know how these seemingly magical contraptions do the job? It can’t be as simple as just pumping cool air, there has to be more to it. How does it make the air cool, to begin with?
How refrigeration works is a very interesting question and one that we’re all a little curious about. In a nutshell, the whole process works by utilizing a repetitive cycle of condensing and evaporating a gas, one with a low boiling point and that isn’t toxic to humans or animals, while at the same time being relatively safe for the environment.
There are six main components that make your air conditioner, and all refrigeration really, work the way they do. You have the refrigerant, a compressor, an expansion valve, condenser and evaporator coils, and a fan. There are obviously more components, but these are the elementary ones that make the whole concept work.
The refrigerant gas is compressed into the condenser coils where the increase in pressure causes the gas to heat up. Once enough pressure is achieved, the gas condenses into a liquid where it is then released through the expansion valve separating the condenser and evaporator coils. The pressure in the evaporator coils is far lower than in the condenser coils, so the liquid refrigerant can now expand and evaporate. Since the temperature of the liquid refrigerant can’t be higher than its boiling temperature, it cools the evaporator coils down to their boiling point, typically somewhere under 0 degrees F.
The pressure in the evaporator coils is lower than the condenser coils because the compressor is pulling the cool gas from the evaporator coils and forcing it into the condenser coils. This is where the fan comes into play, by pushing the cool air from around the evaporator coils into the home. It’s through this repetitive process and the enclosed system the refrigerant is contained in that we’re able to cool our homes and vehicles. It’s actually pretty cool when you learn how it all works.