How Does Air Conditioning Work?

Air conditioning is a common feature in many homes and buildings across Australia, thanks to our warm, sunny climate. We all know that air conditioning keeps us nice and cool, but have you ever wondered “how does air conditioning work?”.

In simple terms, the process involves removing heat and humidity from the air in a space, and replacing it with cooler, drier air. Let’s take a closer look at this amazing process.

Tower Air Conditioner

So, how does air conditioning work exactly?

At its core, air conditioning relies on the principle of thermodynamics – when a liquid evaporates, it absorbs heat from its surroundings. This is the same principle that causes sweat to cool your skin when you stop to have a cold beer after a hot day. Air conditioning systems use this principle to cool the air in a space. To explain further, you need to learn about the key components of an air conditioning system. These are:

Compressor – Considered the heart of air conditioning systems, it’s responsible for pumping refrigerant throughout the system.

Evaporator – Absorbs heat from the indoor air and transfers it to the refrigerant.

Condenser – Removes heat from the refrigerant and releases it into the outdoor air.

Expansion valve – Controls the flow of refrigerant into the evaporator.

Now that you’re familiar with the key components, here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how everything works to keep you cool:

  1. The compressor pumps refrigerant (usually a gas) around the air conditioner, from the outdoor unit to the indoor unit. The refrigerant flows through the expansion valve, which causes it to expand and cool down. The now-cool refrigerant then flows through the evaporator coil, which is located in the indoor unit.
  2. The warm indoor air is blown over the evaporator coil by a fan, causing the refrigerant to absorb heat from the air, cooling the air down significantly. The cooled air is blown back into the room, while a dehumidifier removes moisture. The now-warm refrigerant flows back to the outdoor unit.
  3. In the outdoor unit, the warm refrigerant then flows through the condenser coil, which releases the absorbed heat into the outdoor air. The refrigerant is then pumped back to the indoor unit, and the process starts over again.

Types of Air Conditioning Systems

There are several different types of air conditioning systems, including:

Window units – These self-contained air conditioning units are installed in a window or through a hole in an exterior wall. They are usually designed to cool a single room or small space and are usually quite affordable.

Portable systems – These are similar to window units; however, the main body is portable and can be placed anywhere indoors. The hot air is carried outside via a flexible exhaust hose that you direct out of a window or other opening.

Split systems – Split systems consist of an indoor unit (which contains the evaporator coil and fan) and an outdoor unit (which contains the compressor and condenser coil). The two units are connected by a refrigerant line.

Central air conditioning – Central air conditioning systems are basically large versions of split systems but are designed to cool an entire building, such as for commercial purposes. The cool air is distributed through ducts in the walls or ceilings.

Now that you understand how air conditioning works, you can make informed decisions about which type of system you might want installed and why it’s important to keep it well-maintained. For more advice, installations or repairs contact our friendly team for a chat.