We all know that we enjoy air conditioning – and are miserable without it, especially in the wake of storms and power outages. However, few of us know how our HVAC system delivers our wonderfully cooled air. Let’s break down the concept of air conditioning and some terms that you may find useful:

Question: How does my Air Conditioning System cool the air in my home? 

Answer: Keep in mind that “cool” air cannot be created. “Cool” air results from a lack of heat – heat is removed from the air to make it “cool.” Simply stated, your home Air Conditioning System absorbs the heat in your home and transfers it to the refrigerant, which is then carried to the air outside of your home and released.

The refrigerant is a chemical that literally loops through the system’s piping from inside your home to outside your home, all the while absorbing heat and then releasing it to the external air outside your home. Refrigerants change their “phase” much like how water will evaporate into a gas when heated. Refrigerant, in its liquid state, will absorb heat. This transforms the refrigerant into a gas. The Refrigerant is then forced to returning to its liquid state, thereby releasing the heat. The liquid then returns into your home, ready to absorb more heat. And the cycle continues.

Here is the step-by step process of how the refrigerant – and the heat – is transported throughout the cycle:

  1. The Evaporator: This is located inside your home within your “Air Handler,” and includes a coil, a fan ad a few other components.  As air from inside you home move across the Evaporator, refrigerant within the coil absorbs the heat from the air and converts the refrigerant to gas. The air literally becomes cooler as the heat is absorbed. This is why the air feels cooler around your vents (also called “registers”). Now, we need to do something with the heat. The refrigerant (now a gas), travels to the next component…
  2. The Compressor: This is located outside or your home, within your “Condensing Section.” The Compressor literally compresses the gas to a state of higher pressure and temperature, which forces the refrigerant into the next component…
  3. The Condenser:  This is also located within your “Condensing Section” outside your home. The refrigerant, in its gas state, is condensed back into a liquid state as the heat is expelled into the surrounding outside air. The condenser coil accomplishes this by dissipating heat from the metal fins that populate the exterior of the coil. Now in its liquid form again, the refrigerant – hungry for heat again – returns to the Evaporator to repeat the process.

Regardless of whether your home utilizes a “split system” as described above, a “package unit” or a “water source” system, the heat transfer process is the same.

But wait. There’s more!

As your Air Conditioning System continues to remove heat from your home, you get to take advantage of a fantastic by-product: Dehumidification. As air moves across the Evaporator coil, not only is heat absorbed by the refrigerant but the coil wrings moisture out of the air as well. Therefore, after the air passes through the Evaporator coil and back into the room, the air is cooler AND DRIER. The water is drained out of the system and sent out of the home via a drain pipe.