Air Conditioning 101: How Cooling Works

July 26, 2013
Ross and Witmer

Most homeowners take modern air conditioning for granted. You flip a switch and voila! Cool air circulates through your home. What most people don’t know is how air conditioners do their job. For example, did you know A/Cs don’t actually cool the air but, rather, remove the heat from circulating air instead?

In honor of an appliance that works hard all summer to keep your family comfortable, we thought we’d host Air Conditioning 101 and explain the basics of how your cooling system works.

Your air conditioning system includes several basic parts:

  • Thermostat
  • Furnace/air handler
  • Condenser
  • Evaporator
  • Compressor
  • Cold air returns/ducts
  • Filter
  • Air supply ducts/vents

There are additional components involved in the air conditioning process such as dehumidifiers, which work to further improve indoor air quality and comfort.

Your thermostat is connected to your furnace. When it registers the indoor temperature has gone above the current setting, it begins a seemingly magical sequence of events.

  1. The air-handling unit starts up. When the air-handling unit kicks on, it begins sucking warm air from your home through a series of return air ducts. Warm air travels through a system of ducts as it’s pulled through a filter.
  2. The filter. The filter keeps small particles of dust and lint from recirculating through your system. High-tech air cleaners filter micro-pollutants as well. Always change filters as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Condenser/compressor/evaporator. These three parts work together, using a steady flow of refrigerant traveling between them in copper tubing. As warm air is moved through the condenser, it passes over a refrigerant-filled evaporator coil that absorbs the heat from the air. This heat converts the refrigerant to a vapor, which is compressed and moved to an outdoor coil. The heat escapes outside, the vapor returns inside where it’s converted back to a liquid, and the process starts all over.
  4. Air supply. Once the heat is removed, cool air is forced through the air supply ducts. It exits via air vents to cool your home.

For more information about your air conditioning system, contact Ross & Witmer. We provide reliable HVAC service to Charlotte area homeowners.

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