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How Does an Air Conditioner Actually Work?

When summer heat sets in, it's essential to have an unit that keeps your home cool and comfortable. But do you know how these powerful machines work? Let’s break down the basics of AC units so you can maximize their efficiency and keep your space cooler than ever.

Air Conditioner Background History

For over a century, people have been finding new and innovative ways to stay cool. The journey started in the 20th century with air conditioners designed for airplanes, but it wasn't until the 1950s that this cutting-edge technology began appearing in homes.

Initially invented in 1902 by Willis Carrier, air conditioners were large and inefficient. However, now they are smaller and more powerful. Today's air conditioners are designed to maximize energy efficiency and minimize noise by combining fans, evaporators, compressors, and condensers.

Types of Air Conditioner Units

Air conditioners come in various forms and are used in a wide range of applications. These include split systems/ central, package systems, cassettes, ductless mini-split, commercial, and window.


Split system

Split system air conditioners are the most commonly used type of system. They are called central air conditioners, because they are “central” to the area that they heat and cool. They typically consist of an outdoor condensing unit and an indoor evaporator coil connected by two copper refrigerant lines transporting cooled, conditioned air throughout the house.

Cassette Air Conditioners

Cassette air conditioners are installed in the ceiling of a room where they can be hidden from view. They feature an indoor casing, evaporator coil, and fan, as well as a separate outdoor condensing unit. Air circulates through a small grille in the ceiling, allowing air to be circulated throughout the room.

Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioners

Ductless mini-split air conditioners consist of one or more small indoor units and a single outdoor condensing unit. These systems are great for homes that don't have existing ductwork, as they can be easily installed in locations where central air conditioning would otherwise not be possible.

One of the most popular uses for ductless systems in Arizona, is for Garages and Casitas. They are relatively small, very quiet, and extremely efficient.


Commercial Air Conditioners

Commercial air conditioners are larger and more powerful than other types of air conditioners. They typically use a closed-loop system to cool large buildings such as office spaces, factories, retail stores, or laboratories.


Window Air Conditioners

Window air conditioners are designed to fit in a standard window opening. They are easily installed and don't require an outdoor unit, making them popular for people who want to cool a single room without paying for a full-home air conditioning system.

Split Air Conditioners

Due to their design, split air conditioners offer more reliable, effective cooling compared to window units. Composed of two distinct components - an indoor unit and an outdoor one - these AC systems create a cooler atmosphere through the internal fan in the interior wall-mounted portion while simultaneously housing the condenser and compressor outdoors for optimal power.


Air Conditioner Parts

Regardless of the type of air conditioner you have, most AC units use the same basic components for efficient operation. Below, we'll discuss each key component and how they work together to keep you comfortable.

Evaporator Coil

The evaporator coil in the indoor unit removes heat from the air as refrigerant passes through it. This causes the air to be cooled and distributed throughout the house.


The compressor is located in the outdoor unit and compresses the refrigerant into a liquid form. This process creates pressure, which then helps to push the heated air out of the house.

Condenser Coil

The condenser coil is also located in the outdoor unit and helps to dissipate the heat from the air being released outside. It converts the refrigerant vapor into a liquid form, allowing for efficient heat transfer.

Expansion Valve

The expansion valve is a small component located in the indoor unit that helps regulate refrigerant flow. Controlling the amount of refrigerant entering the evaporator coil helps ensure optimal cooling and energy efficiency.

Expansion Valve

The expansion valve is a small component located in the indoor unit that helps regulate refrigerant flow. Controlling the amount of refrigerant entering the evaporator coil helps ensure optimal cooling and energy efficiency.

The Steps in an Air Conditioning Cooling Cycle

The air conditioning cooling cycle is a series of steps each time the AC unit turns on. The process begins when the thermostat detects that it's warmer than the set temperature and sends a signal to the compressor to start running. It then moves through the following steps:

  1. Refrigerant enters the compressor as a low-pressure gas, which is compressed and converted into a high-pressure gas.
  2. The high-pressure gas then travels to the condenser coil, which releases heat and reverts to a liquid form.
  3. The liquid refrigerant then moves through the expansion valve, reducing pressure and turning it back into a low-pressure gas as it enters the evaporator coil.
  4. Finally, the refrigerant absorbs heat from the air passing through the indoor unit and returns to the compressor to start the cycle again. Once the thermostat senses the desired temperature has been reached, it shuts off the compressor and stops cooling the air conditioning.

Efficient Usage Tips to Keep Your AC Running Right!

To get the most out of your air conditioning system and save on energy costs, it's important to use it efficiently. Here are a few tips:

Air Conditioning Maintenance

With regular air , your AC can run efficiently and reliably. A certified HVAC technician can identify potential cooling or energy consumption issues before they become a serious problem. Plus, they can give handy tips on how to get the most out of your system while avoiding costly repairs.

AC Troubles? Keep Your Cool!

Getting the most out of your air conditioner means taking the time to maintain it properly. With the proper care and attention, you can keep your AC running efficiently for years.

If you’re experiencing troubles with your AC unit or need routine maintenance to ensure it works properly as we move into summer, give the pros at Proskill a call today!








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