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Understanding The Basics Of Your Air Conditioning System

Posted by Kelly on Aug 25, 2015 2:22:45 PM

Understanding The Basics Of Your Air Conditioning System

Your air conditioner has kept you cool all summer, but have you ever wondered how it works? It’s a modern-day miracle that we can control our indoor environment to keep us comfortable. If you were to go back in time 200 years and tell your ancestors about it, they probably wouldn’t believe you. “A magic box that cools your home? Wait, how are you here from the future?” We take for granted the wonder of air conditioning efficiency, so how does this little miracle unit do it? Let’s spend some time examining the basics of your air conditioning system.

How It Works

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, your AC works by using the same basic principles that it takes to get your refrigerator to work. Both use energy/fuel to transfer heat from the cool interior and push it to an outside environment. For your fridge, it gets pushed into your house, and for your AC, it gets transferred to the outdoors.

The quick version of how it works: it uses a series of coils called the evaporator (cold and inside) and condenser (hot and outside) and a pump called the compressor to move heat transfer fluid  — called refrigerant — between the coils. The refrigerant is what helps with the transfer of heat. The Department of Energy says, “the refrigerant evaporates in the indoor evaporator coil, pulling heat out of indoor air and thereby cooling your home. The hot refrigerant gas is pumped outdoors into the condenser where it reverts back to a liquid, giving up its heat to the outside air flowing over the condenser's metal tubing and fins.”

That’s a pretty efficient cycle of pushing hot air out and bringing cool air in! 

To understand even more about your AC, you can check out this post we did on the different types of air conditioners and this post that answers some of the biggest questions you may have about air conditioners.

How To Keep It Running Better

Now that you know how your air conditioner works, it’s important to know the basics on how to keep it running efficiently. We’ve written a library’s worth of articles on this, but if you can follow some simple steps you’ll keep your air conditioning system in top shape. Here are some of the most important points to keeping your AC running efficiently:

  • Change your filter regularly.
    This makes it easier for air to flow and keeps dirt and debris from entering your home or clogging your system.
  • Keep the unit clean.
    Remove dirt and debris, and trim back any growth from around the outside unit. A professional can help you clean your ducts and vents too. 
  • Get a professional inspection.
    Not only is an annual/bi-annual inspection good for keeping your unit running smoothly, but it can save you money and keep your system lasting longer.
  • Prevent air leaks in your home.
    Make sure your home is sealed tight to get the most out of your AC — that means windows shut, doors sealed, and cracks filled. If not, your AC will need to work harder to cool your home.

For more tips on efficiency, check out these previous posts: 

HVACWinterChecklist

Topics: HVAC