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Have You Ever Wondered How Your AC Cools Your Home?

Summer season in Louisville means cooling systems run around the clock to preserve comfort. When it’s time to turn your air conditioner on this year, you may wonder about how air conditioners work – it might not be exactly how you think.

The heating and cooling professionals of Jarboe’s Heating, Cooling & Plumbing share the cooling process and important system components that play a role. Know how air conditioners work and exactly what they do to keep your Louisville, KY home or business cool this summer!

Important Components Behind How Air Conditioners Work

Before we get into how air conditioners work, let’s first introduce the major air conditioning system components involved in the cooling process. The main components you need to know to better understand how air conditioners work include:

  • Evaporator coil: The evaporator coil’s job is to remove heat from indoor air. It is located within the indoor cabinet of your air conditioning system – for this reason, you may hear it called the indoor coil.

  • Condenser coil: The condenser coil’s job is to release the heat pulled from indoor air. It is located within the outdoor air conditioning unit and is sometimes called the outdoor coil.

  • Compressor: The compressor pumps refrigerant throughout the air conditioning system. It also pressurizes the refrigerant within the lines to aid in the cooling process. The compressor is located in the outdoor air conditioning unit.

The evaporator coil, compressor, and condenser coil are all connected by refrigerant lines, which hold the refrigerant your air conditioner uses to transfer heat between your home and the outdoors. Newly built air conditioners contain hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerant – the most commonly used is Puron, also referred to as R-410A.

This is a new environmentally friendly refrigerant that replaces the Freon (also called R-22) which has been popular in air conditioner use for decades, which is under a current phase-out. As of January 1, 2020, no new air conditioners made in the U.S. or imported are allowed to use Freon. Freon is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerant that is known to damage the ozone layer. Alternatively, Puron is a safer alternative that does not emit chemicals that harm the ozone layer.

Steps Involved in How Air Conditioners Work

Now that we’ve covered the components that facilitate the cooling cycle, let’s walk through how air conditioners work. Many air conditioning users (perhaps yourself included) assume air conditioners add cooling to the air. This is an understandable assumption as many know furnaces warm the air when they add heat.

How air conditioners work is actually not along the same lines as a furnace’s heating process, but it is the same as another household appliance! Your air conditioner’s cooling process is more like that of your refrigerator, which keeps its interiors cool through the removal of heat rather than the creation of cooling. Heat is pulled from the air inside your home to lower temperatures – no cooling is created and infused into your air supply.

We’ve covered the principles behind how air conditioners work, so now let’s walk through the steps in the cooling process:

  1. Air travels through the return ducts of your home to the evaporator coil.
  2. As the warm air from your home passes over the coil, the liquid refrigerant inside the evaporator coil absorbs the excess heat. As it does so, the refrigerant changes from liquid to vapor. Moisture is also removed from the air and condensation forms on the coils.
  3. Refrigerant vapor travels through the refrigerant lines to reach the compressor. At the compressor, refrigerant pressure and temperature increases.
  4. Refrigerant then cycles to the condenser coil. The heat is discharged from the air conditioner into the outdoor air. As it does so, the refrigerant’s state converts back to a liquid as it loses pressure and temperature.
  5. The cooling cycle is ready to start anew. The system’s expansion valve allows cooled refrigerant to circulate to the evaporator coil as needed.

These steps behind how air conditioners work repeat over and over again until the air inside your home is sufficiently cooled. Your thermostat tells the cooling system your desired temperature, and the air conditioner continues to cycle until the air inside your home reaches that temperature.

Once your home’s air is cooled to the temperature set by your thermostat, the thermostat tells your air conditioner to stop. The thermostat continues to monitor temperatures indoors while the cooling system is off. Once temperatures in the home rise again, the thermostat triggers the air conditioner to begin the cooling process once more.

Improve How Air Conditioners Work

There are many things to do to improve how air conditioners work. Air conditioner maintenance tasks improve system performance and boost energy-efficient operation. You benefit from a higher level of comfort inside your Louisville, KY area home as well as lower cooling bills. The less energy consumed through how air conditioners work, the less you pay to keep your home comfortable throughout the summer months.

Preventative Maintenance Improves How Air Conditioners Work

The best way to improve how air conditioners work is to undergo professional air conditioning maintenance each year. Just like a vehicle, your air conditioner experiences wear and tear as time goes on. Professional preventative maintenance works to undo this damage, so your cooling system offers optimal performance.

An air conditioner tune-up offers so many benefits – it’s truly a valuable investment in the care of your cooling system. Your air conditioner should receive a preventative maintenance tune-up each year – ideally, this takes place in the spring before time to turn it on for the summer. The major benefits of a tune-up beyond an improvement in how air conditioners work include:

  • Better cooling performance, which delivers better comfort and indoor air quality inside your home.
  • Lowered risk of repair needs, as maintenance works to undo system damage as well as find and solve minor issues before they become major.
  • Lowered risk of service interruptions that leave you without much-needed cooling during the hottest summer months.
  • Savings on your cooling bills, as the resulting improved performance lowers the amount of energy your system consumes through how air conditioners work.
  • Longer service life, as maintenance is shown to keep your air conditioner in operation longer.
  • Equipment warranty preservation, as many HVAC equipment manufacturers require annual preventative maintenance tune-ups for warranties to remain valid.

DIY Tasks to Improve How Air Conditioners Work

Asides from a preventative maintenance tune-up each year, there are many tasks for a homeowner to do to improve how air conditioners work. Air conditioners require adequate airflow through the system for proper operation – take steps to preserve airflow and gain the rewards of better comfort, performance, and efficiency from your cooling system.

  • Pay attention to your furnace filter. Furnace filters aren’t just for furnaces – your air conditioner uses the same filter! You know they must be changed on a regular basis, but did you know this frequency could be more in the summertime? When your air conditioner runs around the clock to combat the Louisville heat, it’s entirely possible that your furnace filter needs more frequent replacement. Check it monthly – if the filter’s surface is gray and clogged with contaminants, it’s time for a change.

  • Allow air to flow to the unit. Keep at least two feet of clearance around your air conditioning equipment, both indoor and outdoor units. Patio furniture, outdoor toys, garage gear, and other items need to be kept away – never store them in the area surrounding your air conditioner. Fences surrounds, and other enclosures that hide your exterior unit need to be positioned at least two feet away from the unit to allow good airflow and access for maintenance and repairs.

  • Keep your exterior air conditioning unit clean. When outdoor debris build up on your air conditioner’s exterior, airflow through the unit is hindered. Remove any vegetation that has grown up around the unit. Gently brush away dirt, leaves, grass clippings, and other debris – it’s a good idea to check this after each time you mow your lawn. Pull out twigs that are wedged in the grills or fins, and clip nearby branches to prevent damage.

  • Improve airflow throughout your home. How air conditioners work doesn’t do you any good if your living areas don’t receive cool air! Walk through your home and check all registers and return air grills that are located on walls, ceilings, and/or floors. Registers and grills must never be blocked by furniture, rugs, and other household items. Make sure all register louvers are open – don’t close registers in attempts to close off areas of the home and save money on cooling. This HVAC myth has the potential to damage your cooling system and is a major detriment to how air conditioners work.

When you know how air conditioners work, you become more familiar with your cooling system and are able to take better care of your equipment. Jarboe’s Heating, Cooling & Plumbing is dedicated to helping Louisville, KY home and business owners make the most of their air conditioning systems.

We offer high-quality cooling services that range from new air conditioner installation to repairs and maintenance for your existing unit. Contact us today for assistance with your air conditioner.

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