The Basics of Air Conditioning: How Does It Work?

Air conditioning is a process that uses a vapor compression cycle to minimize air temperature with the help of a condenser, a compressor, an expansion valve and an evaporator. This process is usually carried out by four main components: compressor, heat exchanger, fan and expansion valve. Most central air conditioning units are operated by a split system, which consists of a “hot” side (the condensing unit) located outside the home and a “cold” side (the evaporator) located inside the home. The main principle of air conditioning is to keep the evaporator in cooler conditions than at room temperature.

This is achieved by extracting warm air from the home and releasing its heat to the outside. The central air conditioner then distributes the freshly cooled air through a duct system in the home. When an air conditioner is turned on for the first time, the filter drier will capture particles. There are two sets of fans in a split air conditioner, one in the indoor unit and one in the outdoor unit.

As physics dictates that warm air can hold more water than cold air, cooling the building air when it comes into contact with the evaporator coils causes it to release moisture that forms as condensation on the coils. This cold mist travels through the evaporator coil (an element that is directly in the air stream of a circulation fan that draws air from inside the building). A filter is an extremely practical and cost-effective solution for maintaining the performance of an air conditioner. Central air systems are great for homeowners who want central air conditioning, but have nowhere to store a large indoor unit in their home.

These units can reach up to 22 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Index), which is a measure of energy efficiency during spring and summer months. In an actual air conditioner, the compressor is placed near the condenser and the expansion valve is set near the evaporator. The original intention behind inventing air conditioning was to remove moisture from industrial spaces, with air cooling considered a side effect. Finally, power cables of appropriate size must connect the condenser (outdoor unit) and the evaporator (indoor unit) with an appropriate duct for cable protection.

Excess airflow causes incomplete condensation and evaporation, affecting performance and service life of an air conditioner. R22, R410A and R32 are common refrigerants used in residential air conditioners because of their unique chemical properties.

Lucy Ryan
Lucy Ryan

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