What Does an Air Conditioner Actually Do? (And Why it Matters)

2013 Feb 13
Posted in: Air Conditioning
Air Conditioner in Phoenix

It seems obvious, right? Your air conditioner makes your home cooler. Well, while this is the eventual outcome, your air conditioner actually does much more than that.

We’re going to talk about the four main functions of your air conditioner and how it performs those functions to cool your home.

Removing heat from the air

Believe it or not, creating “cold” isn’t actually a thing. Cold is just how we describe a lack of thermal heat. Your air conditioner does not “create” cold air, it removes heat from warm air.

So, how does your air conditioner remove the heat from the air in your home?

The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) describes how this works in great detail. But we’ll try to simplify it. 

Your air conditioner has three main mechanical components to cool your home:

  • a compressor (a pump that pressurizes the refrigerant)
  • an evaporator coil (inside cold coil)
  • a condenser coil (outside warm coil)

Basically, the air in your home moves over the cold evaporator coil that’s inside your home, which absorbs the heat from the air with refrigerant (a heat transfer fluid).

The refrigerant in that coil then flows to the warm condenser coil. There, the compressor compresses that refrigerant to make it really hot, hotter than whatever the air is like outside.

This allows the air outdoor to absorb the heat in the refrigerant that’s flowing through the outdoor coil until the refrigerant cools down and flows back inside where it can absorb more heat. The refrigerant flows back and forth until your home reaches the temperature set my your thermostat.

So, why does this matter to you? Because when these coils get dirty, your air conditioner works less efficiently and cost you more money as a result. This is partially why you hear people saying you need to get your air conditioner checked at least once a year for a tune up.

Moving the air

Obviously, your air conditioner does not just absorb heat from the air and release it outside. It also has to move the air. That’s why there is a fan, which circulates the air from your home through a vent and blows it over the cooled evaporator coil. This cooled air is then blown through your air ducts, which are connected to all the different rooms in your home.

So, why does this matter to you? Because there are options for how your air conditioner moves this air. For instance, there are now variable speed blowers that pick the most suitable speed based on the current conditions instead of constantly turning on and off.

These variable speed blowers save you money on your electric bill and increase the comfort of your home by circulating your air for longer periods. So if you’re thinking about getting a new air conditioner, this is an option you should consider.

Removing moisture from the air

Hot air can hold more humidity than cold air. That’s why you see water droplets on a cold glass of iced water, because the air around the glass drops in temperature and the amount of moisture it can hold drops. Thus the moisture in that air condenses until it turns into water droplets

So what does this have to do with air conditioners?

Recall when we talked about the hot air being blown over the cold evaporator coil.  When the hot air is blown past these coils, moisture from the air condenses onto the coils and is captured.

That’s why your air conditioner has a drain pan and a drain line for all the moisture it captures.

So why does this matter to you? If the drain line ever becomes clogged, there will be a water overflow, which can cause drywall damage and even mold. Call a professional if your air conditioner’s drain line gets clogged.

Cleaning the Air

Finally, your air conditioner cleans the air because it has to filter the air flowing from your home to the air conditioner.

So, why does this matter to you? If you don’t change the filter regularly (or install a poor air filter), your air conditioner will tend to break down more often and need more repairs due to buildup of dirt in the system. Also, dirty filters create stress on your air conditioner, which can result in higher energy bills for you.

We recommended you change your air filter each month during heavy use. This is one of the easiest things you can do to reduce your cooling costs and prolong the life of your air conditioner.

More Than Meets the Eye

Although most people see their air conditioner as the thing that makes their Phoenix-area home cool in the summer, it actually does much more than that.

If you need assistance keeping your air conditioner working properly, contact George Brazil online.
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