Do You Know How Your Air Conditioner Works?

Air Conditioning

Do You Know How Your Air Conditioner Works?

While central air conditioning is a mainstay in most American homes, few homeowners know how their cooling system works. Understanding the inner workings of your air conditioner will help you troubleshoot problems with your system and effectively communicate with your HVAC technician when service is needed.

The refrigerant in your air conditioner is a chemical that easily converts from liquid to gas and back again. The refrigerant is the vehicle that transfers heat from inside your home to the air outdoors.

Your air conditioner has three main components that work together to cool your home:


The compressor is located inside your system’s outdoor unit. The refrigerant enters the compressor as a low-pressure, cool gas. The compressor squeezes it, and the molecules are packed tightly together, turning the refrigerant into a hot, high-pressure gas.


The hot gas is sent into the condenser, also located in the outdoor unit. The fins on the unit act as a radiator to dissipate the heat, sending it into the outdoor air. As the heat dissipates, the refrigerant turns into a cool liquid.


The cool liquid enters the evaporator, located inside the indoor unit, through a tiny hole. The pressure drops, and the refrigerant evaporates back into a gas and extracts the heat from the return air blown over the evaporator coil by the system’s fan. At the same time, the humidity in the air condenses on the evaporator coil and collects in a pan beneath the coil and flows into the drain. The refrigerant then cycles back into the compressor and the process starts over again.

The efficiency of your air conditioner depends on the correct charge of refrigerant, optimum airflow and clean components. Annual preventive maintenance on your system is essential for keeping your air conditioner operating efficiently and extending its life. Between yearly tune-ups by a qualified HVAC technician, these important DIY tasks will ensure top performance of your system:

  • Check your air filter monthly and replace it when it’s dirty to prevent dust buildup inside your system and maintain adequate airflow.
  • Remove plant growth from around your outdoor condensing unit and hose it down every month to remove debris trapped in the fins.
  • Remove obstructions from your supply and return registers to ensure the optimum flow of air to prevent overheating and related damage.
  • Maintain the area around your indoor unit to prevent dust from entering your system and to ensure easy accessibility in the event service is needed.
  • Keep your ductwork in top condition to prevent expensive air leaks. Seal loose joints and cracks with mastic sealant or metal tape, and insulate ducts in unconditioned areas such as attics and crawl spaces.

Contact Haley Mechanical with any questions or concerns you may have with your air conditioning.