Your air conditioning system is more than the sum of its parts. Nevertheless, knowing exactly what each part does can help you keep your AC system in the best possible shape. Take your air conditioning condenser, for instance. Nestled within the outdoor cabinet, this unique part plays a huge role in your home’s cooling comfort.
How Your Air Conditioning Works
It’s a common misconception that air conditioning systems cool homes by producing cool air. In fact, AC systems don’t “produce” anything at all. Instead, they make the surrounding indoor air cooler simply by removing heat energy from the equation. By absorbing heat energy, your AC system can bring cool, refreshing relief to an otherwise hot home.
How your air conditioning system achieves this is nothing short of a miracle. The secret ingredient? Refrigerant. The average AC system circulates refrigerant between two coils – the evaporator and condenser. Both are made from copper and aluminum – two metals with impressive heat-transferring properties. The refrigerant also changes between a liquid and a gas at various points thanks to two key components: the compressor and expansion valve.
Before refrigerant flows through the evaporator, it passes through the expansion valve and expands into a low-pressure gas. This also cools the refrigerant considerably. This allows the refrigerant to absorb as much heat as possible as it travels through the evaporator.
How Your Condenser Works
Just before the refrigerant reaches the condenser, it first stops at the compressor. True to its name, the compressor squeezes the refrigerant into a hot, high-pressure gas before sending it through the condenser. A large condenser fan blows air over the condenser, allowing the refrigerant to shed the heat energy it collected during its travels.
Shedding that heat energy turns the refrigerant from a high-pressure gas to a warm, high-pressure liquid. This preps the refrigerant to go back through the expansion valve and start the entire process over again.
How It Works With Heat Pumps
Now, here’s where things get interesting. If you own a heat pump, then you’ve probably used it at some point to heat your home. Set your thermostat to “heat” and an interesting thing happens – the entire process goes into reverse.
Instead of absorbing heat from the indoor air, the heat pump draws heat from the outdoor air and releases that heat indoors. The entire process uses roughly the same energy as air conditioning, making it one of the most efficient ways to heat a home.