Most homeowners know that when they flip on their air conditioner, they can expect cool, refreshing air to start circulating throughout their home until it reaches their target temperature. However, the process for creating this cool air isn’t as widely-known.
How Does Refrigerant Work?
Your air conditioner uses a fluid known as refrigerant to move heat found inside your home to the outdoors. It works by creating a continuous flow through a closed, continuous circuit with four main components. On this blog, we’ll discuss these four components and explain what important role they play in the air conditioning process in order to help you better-understand what could be going wrong with your system. If you’re experiencing issues, you may want to learn more about our AC Repair services.
Stage 1: Evaporator Coil
Your refrigerant’s journey begins at your evaporator coil, which is located inside the indoor unit in your home. Your coil is a metal tube, usually copper or some other material that easily transfers heat that’s bent into a weaving pattern to expose it to as much airflow as possible. This airflow comes from your blower fan, which pulls air from the return vent inside your home, which is usually full of heat. The cool refrigerant then absorbs the heat from that air blown over it, which cools it before it’s sent back into your home through your duct system. Generally, your refrigerant will be extremely cold when it enters your evaporator coil, but be more of a room-temperature warm when it exits.
Stage 2: Compressor
The warm refrigerant then moves along a series of lines to your outdoor unit, where you’ll find the next stage of the process: your compressor. The compressors’ job is exactly as it sounds: compress the fluid. This process places the refrigerant under extremely high pressure, a process which not only turns it into a gaseous state, but makes it become extremely hot: sometimes as high as 300 degrees Fahrenheit! This is extremely important because as we’ll see in the next stage, heat transfer wouldn’t happen otherwise.
Stage 3: Condenser Coil
Your refrigerant then flows through the second coil of the cycle, this time also located in your outdoor unit. The purpose for this coil is the same, although the goal might be the opposite: instead of trying to absorb as much heat as possible, this time the outdoor
blower fan forces as much air as possible over the coil to try and make it lose as much heat as it can. This is why the air that comes out of your outdoor unit often feels extremely warm, even on brutally hot days. In order for refrigerant to still manage to lose heat, the temperature needs to be cranked up extremely high: so high that it’s still substantially warmer than even the most brutal outdoor temperatures. Once the refrigerant completes its cycle through this coil, it’s still quite warm, but has usually dropped to a much, much lower temperature.
Stage 4: Expansion Chamber
The expansion chamber is the final stop for your refrigerant on its cycle. In the expansion chamber, your refrigerant is allowed to expand and lose the pressure it was placed under during the compression step. This is an endothermic process, which means that it absorbs heat as opposed to giving it off. This causes the refrigerant to condense back into a liquid form that’s quite cold, which is then sent back to the start of the process at the evaporator coil.