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How Air Conditioners Work and Avoiding Common Problems

Like most homeowners, your understanding of how air conditioners work may be rather limited. As long as yours keeps the house cool and comfortable, that may be all you need to know. By understanding how air conditioners work, though, you will have an easier time troubleshooting air conditioner problems. That knowledge is sure to come in handy and will probably save you significant amounts of money over time.

Air Conditioner - How it Works

It may seem complex, but the air conditioning process is actually fairly simple. It all revolves around the expanding and contracting of refrigerant, which causes it to change from a gas to a liquid and back again. In so doing, it pulls warm air from inside a home, and the air is then pumped outside.

A standard air conditioning system is made up of three parts: a condenser and compressor, which are located in an outdoor unit, and an evaporator, which is sometimes a part of the furnace. When central air conditioner problems occur, they can originate in any of these three components.

The cycle begins in the compressor, where refrigerant enters as a cool, low-pressure gas. The compressor puts pressure on the refrigerant, which makes its temperature increase. By the time it leaves the compressor, it is a hot gas that is high in pressure.

The next stop is the condenser, which is surrounded by metal fins that help to dissipate heat. This cools down the refrigerant. By the time it exits the condenser, it is a liquid.

The liquid refrigerant is now squeezed through a tiny opening called an expansion valve before entering the evaporator coil. This causes it to evaporate into a gas. As it evaporates, it pulls heat from the air around it. By the time it leaves the evaporator, it is a cool, low-pressure gas once more. It now returns to the compressor, and the process begins anew.

How Does an Air Conditioner Cool the Whole Home?

Now that you know the basic process, you may still want to know more about an air conditioner and how it works. The secret lies in the fan that is located inside the evaporator. This fan works to circulate air that is drawn in from the home. It's typically pulled from vents high up on ceilings and walls. Hot air rises, so the air is warm when it enters the evaporator. It's blown across it and cooled via the process that's described above, and it's then blown back through ducts and out of registers around the home. This cycle continues until the temperature control, or thermostat, detects that the desired temperature has been reached. At that point, the unit shuts down until more cool air is needed.

How do Heat Pumps Work?

Heat pumps are more popular than ever because they tend to be significantly more efficient than other types of heating and cooling equipment. You may be wondering, "how do heat pumps work?" The concept is simple. Like air conditioners, they pull warm air from a home and blow it outside to make the home cooler. However, they can also pull warm air from outside and bring it in to make the home warmer.

Common Home Air Conditioner Problems

No one likes to experience air conditioner problems. While there are many types of central air conditioner problems, only a handful of them are considered to be common. By being familiar with them, you will have an easier time troubleshooting air conditioner problems. A few prime examples include:

  • Low Refrigerant - Refrigerant doesn't dry up over time. If it's low, there must be a leak. In addition to recharging your system, the HVAC technician should locate and repair the leak to keep it from happening again.
  • Frozen Interior Coil - If the coil that's inside the interior unit gets too dirty or otherwise malfunctions, it may freeze up. This is a prime example of why it pays to have your air conditioner serviced and cleaned regularly.
  • Non-Functioning Outdoor Fan or Unit - You should call for help as soon as you notice that the outdoor fan isn't working. Without prompt attention, the compressor could overheat and become very damaged. If the entire unit isn't functioning, a number of things could be wrong.

Handle Home Air Conditioner Problems Quickly

Like most people, you'd probably like air conditioner problems to be corrected right away. After all, the comfort of you and your family depends on it. If you need air conditioner repairs at any time of the day or night, we can help. Feel free to perform a few basic troubleshooting steps first. If they don't pan out, help is just a call away.