How Exactly Does an Air Conditioner Work?

Air Conditioner

We wanted to take a moment to explain exactly how an air conditioner works, as many homeowners are often mystified about the mechanics that keep their homes cool and comfortable during the hot Ottawa summers.

It’s All About Evaporation

When a liquid is heated, it evaporates and turns into a gas—absorbing heat in the process. When a gas is compressed, it reverts to a liquid—releasing heat. This is the basic principal driving air conditioners. The evaporation process takes place inside your home, resulting in cool, comfortable air, and the compression process occurs outside, ensuring hot air is expelled away from your home.

Since the AC process takes place both inside and outside your home, there are two main components needed to make an air conditioner work.

Indoor Unit – Evaporator

Fittingly, the part of the cooling system inside your home is called the evaporator. In a traditional central air conditioning unit, the evaporator is usually found near the furnace and its coils are filled with refrigerant. This cooling chemical runs through coils as warm air from your home passes over. As the refrigerant changes into a gas, it absorbs the heat from the air and the resulting cool air is then distributed throughout your home.

Outdoor Unit – Compressor, Condenser Coil, Fan

The gas refrigerant then travels outside to compressor and condenser, where the refrigerant is compressed back to a high-pressure liquid. As the cooling chemical returns to a liquid, the heat that’s released is exhausted outside and the refrigerant then travels back inside to the evaporator—and the process begins again.

While AC units are complex machines that take years of experience to fully understand to be able to repair or install, it’s fairly easy for any homeowner to understand the basic mechanics behind how an air conditioner works. Knowing the basic process can give homeowners a leg up in monitoring their cooling system and feeling comfortable speaking with their cooling technician.

It’s also important to schedule annual maintenance so a certified professional can assess your air conditioner to ensure your home will be cool and comfortable all summer long!

If you haven’t yet, schedule your annual air conditioning tune-up today!

Harding Heating & Air Conditioning is a locally owned and operated business serving the Ottawa region since 1994.

Showroom Hours:

Monday – Friday: 9am – 6pm
Saturday: 9:30am – 4pm
Sunday: Closed