How Does AC Work?

No one wants to know how the sausage gets made. Does that saying sound familiar?

Well, what’s true for the sausage is valid for air conditioners.

Most of us don’t want to know, and frankly don’t care, how the air conditioner keeps us cool, as long as it works on the hottest days of the year.

But what would you say if we told you that knowing the four major parts of your air conditioner and what they do can help you catch and prevent problems in the future? That identifying a small repair now could save you big, costly repairs and replacements later on?

It’s true! You don’t have to be a certified expert, but it does help to know about the basics of your air conditioner.

How the Big 4 Air Conditioner Parts Work

A central air conditioner is a split system, meaning one part is located outside, and the other is inside your home. Having both an indoor unit and an outdoor unit in your central air systems does not mean you have two units to care for; they are two parts of the same system!

The inside part connects to your furnace’s air handler, which pushes the air through the filter and through your home. Air is passed through the air conditioner with fans that push it outside, over the coils, and back into your house.

It sounds complicated, right? We won’t lie, it takes a moment to wrap your head around, but hopefully, this diagram of the four major parts of the air conditioner will help you understand your cooling system better.

Diagram How AC Works

1. The Evaporator

You can thank your evaporator for delivering your cool air during hot summers. The evaporator uses pressure to convert the liquid refrigerant into gas. A fan then blows the air that has been pumped in from your house over the cold evaporator coil and the cold refrigerant travels through it and back into your home.

You have to keep an eye out for too much or too little refrigerant, which could affect your evaporator. A parched evaporator will result in a bad performance in your evaporator coil. Too much refrigerant and it will pass, liquefied, into the compressor.

2. Expansion Valve

You can’t have an evaporator coil without an expansion valve. Located between the evaporator and the condenser, it removes the pressure from the liquid refrigerant, allowing the evaporator to do its job.

Like every other part of the air conditioner, your expansion valve has to be in good working order. There are some ways to tell if it’s malfunctioning or just plain broken.

  • If your AC is blowing warm air or frost. We know it sounds weird, but both can happen if it is not processing the coolant correctly. It struggles as it no longer absorbs heat from the outside air, interrupting the cooling process, and it circulates air that hasn’t been cooled.
  • If the compressor is constantly working. If your expansion valve is faulty, your compressor will constantly be pumping refrigerant, even if you don’t need it.

3. The Condenser

A condenser is the opposite of an evaporator and is located in the outdoor unit. Instead of turning liquid into gas, it turns the refrigerant back to a liquid using a process called heat transfer.

Your condenser is an essential part of your air conditioner, so it is important that it is in tip-top shape. Keep an eye out for things like outdoor debris, and electrical failures, which could affect the condenser and your air conditioner’s performance.

4. Compressor

Your compressor goes hand in hand with your condenser. They’re the tag team that makes the heat transfer process a reality. The compressor’s job is to re-pressurize the refrigerant gas, once again bringing it back to its liquid form. It then moves the air between the condenser and evaporator.

A compressor is bound to give you some grief if it isn’t properly maintained. It runs on a motor and therefore is prone to similar problems as any other system that operates on one. It can stutter, overheat, and eventually burn out. Keep an ear out for unusual sounds, and if you notice that your air conditioner isn’t keeping you as cool as it used to, call us.

Watch Out for Leaking Refrigerant

One of the problems that can happen in either the condenser or evaporator coils is leaking refrigerant. It can even happen around the compressor or expansion valve. If you’re leaking refrigerant, this is a problem that should be attended to by professional HVAC technicians.

  • Signs that your refrigerant is leaking include:
  • Water puddles around your furnace.
  • Lower than usual airflow from the vents.
  • Warm air circulating instead of cool air.
  • It takes longer to cool down the house.
  • Air conditioner freezes up

If you notice any of these signs, don’t hesitate to call. Better to fix a small problem now than find out you have a much bigger one down the road.

Main Types of Air Conditioners

Toronto summers get hot! You need an air conditioning system that works for your home to be sure your home is filled with chilled air no matter the temperature outside. The air conditioning process is very similar in both central air conditioners and ductless systems.

Central Air Conditioner

Central air conditioning systems use a large compressor unit that lives outside and runs to an indoor air handler. The cooled air is then circulated through your home using the same air ducts as your furnace. This is often the type of air conditioning system used in larger homes to circulate the cold air to all rooms in your home.

Ductless Air Conditioner

Ductless systems have a small compressor unit with one or more air handlers and it mounts directly to the wall, so no ductwork is needed! They are designed to cool only one or two rooms, so one air conditioning unit may not be enough for the whole home. It does mean you have more control over the cold air as you can set the temperature by room instead of having one temperature set in a central air system. You can get multiple indoor units to make sure the whole home has the cooler air it needs.

Does Every Air Conditioner Need Maintenance?

Yes, your air conditioner should be serviced at least once a year. Especially when the modern air conditioning system can include indoor air quality features, pushing off maintenance can make things worse in the long run. Air conditioners work hard to make sure you have the hot air in the middle of summer stay outside, and the cooled air temperature keeps you comfortable inside!

Keeping the indoor and outdoor units clean will make sure your air conditioner can distribute cool air and make sure your home stays at your desired temperature in the most efficient way possible. Regular maintenance will also make sure air flows properly through your unit and prevents your condenser coil or evaporator coil from blocking up and struggling to pull heat from the air.

Expert Maintenance On Air Conditioning Units

Being able to identify not only the parts but what the potential problem could be, makes it easier when you call us. Our team of professional technicians will come to take a look and make sure that all the parts of your air conditioner are in good working order. Once we fix the problem, avoid future ones by getting annual maintenance that will save you time, money, and frustration in the long run. Learn more about our emergency air conditioner repair services.

Learn More About Regular Maintenance