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How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

As a homeowner, you should become more familiar with the various systems of your home. When you understand how things work, you also start to understand the importance of proper care and maintenance of those components.

One of the most important systems in your home is your HVAC system. Your air conditioner requires special attention to keep it functioning efficiently, so you aren’t caught sweltering in the heat of the summer. Here we explain how an air conditioner works, to help you keep up with proper maintenance.

Three Main Components

Your air conditioner consists of three main components that work together to remove hot air from your home, cool it and return it back to your rooms:

1. Outdoor Unit or “Condensing” Unit

As the name implies this is the part of your air conditioner located outside. It consists of the following parts:

  • Condenser coils: Condenser coils are tubes filled with refrigerant liquid with a “chiller” that cools the liquid and then moves the chilled liquid through the condenser tubing.
  • Refrigerant: The refrigerant liquid is a chemical compound that acts as a heat carrier, changing from gas to liquid and then from liquid to gas in the refrigeration cycle.
  • Compressor: The compressor is like a pump that pressurizes the refrigerant gas and sends it to the condenser coil.
  • Fan: The fan blows air over the coils, so the refrigerant is warmed turning the gas into a cool liquid to cool the home.

2. Indoor Unit

The indoor unit is part of your HVAC system usually located in the basement, depending on where you live. It consists of the following parts:

  • Blower motor: The blower motor sends “conditioned” air into the home through the ducts and out the vents.
  • Evaporator coils: Evaporator coils absorb the heat in your home, working with the condenser coil outside to exchange hot air for cool.
  • Circuit board: The control board distributes power to the thermostat in your house and triggers the system to turn on as well.
  • Filter: Filters help block the accumulation of dust, pollen or debris on your air conditioner’s internal components to prevent damage.

3. Living Space

This refers to the components that deliver and control the cool air to the rooms of the home which include:

  • Thermostat: Thermostats measure the temperature in the house and trigger the circuit board to turn on the system when temperatures rise and turn off when the ideal temperature is reached.
  • Supply vents: Cool air is delivered via ducts to the supply vents in each room.
  • Return air vents: The hot air in your rooms is removed through return air ducts.

How the Components Work Together

Here is how the three components work together:

  • It all starts in the living space where the thermostat senses a rise in temperature. This sends a message to the circuit board on the indoor unit.
  • The blower motor turns on for the inside unit, while the compressor and fan turn on for the outside unit.
  • The compressor on the outside unit kicks in, sending refrigerant to the condenser coil and back to the evaporator coil on the inside unit to remove warm air from the home.
  • Hot air removed through return air vents in the living space blows across the evaporator coils inside, while cold refrigerant pumps through the evaporator coils.
  • Cold air is forced through the ducts and out the supply vents of the living space cooling the room to the ideal temperature.
  • Once the home is cooled, the thermostat turns off the system and the whole process begins again when the thermostat senses the temperature rising.

As you can see the three components work in perfect unison to keep your home comfortable in the heat of the summer. But without proper maintenance, many issues can arise interfering with proper function and efficiency for your AC unit.

Proper Air Conditioning Maintenance

In order to keep your AC running at optimum performance, you can follow these maintenance tips:

  • Outdoor Unit: Keep your outdoor unit free of debris such as fallen branches, leaves, and overgrown bushes, weeds and shrubs. Ideally, you should have 18 – 24 inches of clearance around the outdoor unit.
  • Change the Filter: To improve airflow, you should check your filters every month. If they appear clogged with debris, they should be changed to maintain efficiency and avoid breakdowns.
  • Professional Maintenance: Every spring you should arrange to have your Centreville, VA and all of Northern Virginia HVAC expert perform an inspection and routine maintenance of your air conditioner. They will check your indoor and outdoor units, perform a thorough cleaning, and identify any repairs required.

For more information get in touch with us at Service Specialties, Inc. today.

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