How Do Air Conditioners Work?

We end up taking it for granted, but being able to control the temperature in our homes or buildings is pretty cool. With the press of a button, we can get things at exactly the right temperature, and ensure that we are comfortable no matter what.

But how does air conditioning work? How do we manage to control the temperature with such ease? Well, it’s a lot more complicated than just moving air around, and your AC unit has more in common with your refrigerator in that regard. It uses chemicals to cool a wider area, like your house. The process of an air conditioner is that it removes hot air from your home and takes it outside, cooling the area down.

The AC unit has three parts, which are a compressor, condenser, and evaporator. AC units are traditionally placed outside the house, with wiring and power connected to the thermostat you use to control it.  Cooling fluid flows through the conditioner and goes through the compressor, before going to the evaporator and evaporating. The change between liquid and gas provides cooling energy, and that’s what makes it so useful as refrigerants.

The heat is sucked out of the air when this process happens, leaving the inside of your home and then being funneled outside, while the cooler air is pushed throughout your home. The hot gas is pressurized to turn back into the cooling liquid to expel the heat, and then it goes back inside again.

It’s a little confusing, but that pattern of cooling fluid moving through the three parts and then evaporating is the process that cools your home down. It basically traps heat and forces it outside, repeating this process while also blowing cooler air throughout your home, all through pressure and evaporation.

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Using a Fan

But the air conditioner has a fan and several vents inside of it and the air is sucked in and then cooled before being blown back into your home. Then the cycle keeps going until the thermostat recognizes your desired temperature and the cheap ac unit is turned off, only to kick back on when the temperature rises beyond what you set it at.

When you want a room to be a higher temperature, the machine simply doesn’t cool your home until it reaches that temperature. The cycle also explains why you can go to the outside portion of your air conditioner and feel all the hot air emanating from it.

When something goes wrong with your air conditioner, it more than likely is a problem with the cycle being broken or blocked somehow, or the machine not being able to do its job. Understanding how the machine works could save you some money in the long run, and at the very least provide a cool science experience as you think about the chemical process behind it.

So the next time you turn on your AC, take a moment to really think about why it works the way it does.