How Does a Central Air Conditioner Work?

Man in an office thinking about how air conditioning works

Have you ever looked at your air conditioner and you’re like: “damn, how does an air conditioning system work and what’s the technology behind it?”. Air conditioners have really come a long way. Did you know that the first domestic air conditioner was installed in the year 1914 and it was pretty large – it was over 7 feet high, 20 feet long and 6 feet wide.

Nowadays, air conditioners are quite small and more portable. Can you imagine living in hot places like Nevada or Texas minus an air conditioner? How would you survive? Understanding how ACs work is extremely crucial. It could save you lots of money incase your unit malfunctioned one day and you had to fix it.

Types of Air Conditioning System

It’s vital to first know that there are several options when it comes to choosing an air conditioner for your home. You may decide to either go for:

  • Central air: a centralized system of ducts spread throughout your home
  • Window air conditioners / portable air conditioner
  • Ductless mini split

They all work to achieve the same goal : to eliminate heat and humidity from your indoor space, then return cool air indoors, removing unwanted heat and humidity outside.

What differentiates them is how they circulate air throughout your home. Central air circulates cool air to all the rooms in a house that have ducts connected to them. The other systems are localized – meaning they only cool the air of the space where they are positioned or mounted.

Here's how central AC works:

First, when temperatures get high indoors, the thermostat automatically signals the air conditioning system to reduce indoor temperature. This informs the AC system that cool air is needed indoors. The blower motor (located inside the house) together with the condenser (located outside the house) are then turned on.

The fan then draws in the surrounding warm air via your home's duct work. As the warm air passes through the evaporator coil, heat is eliminated from your indoor air, thus cooling it down. The eliminated heat is normally absorbed into a refrigerant that runs through the coil. This refrigerant is then pushed to the condenser. The condenser is part of the AC but it’s located outside the house. The work of the condenser is to expel the eliminated heat into the outside air. While it does this, it cools the refrigerant, which is then directed back indoors so as to start the cooling process over again.

You may also be interested in: 4 Key Questions to Ask Before Buying a Central Air Conditioner

A common mistake many homeowners make is neglecting their central air conditioning system. If you don’t want your unit to breakdown and cause you discomfort (and lots of money) when you most need it, then it’s vital you maintain it regularly. Professional HVAC specialists do maintenance, which includes expertly cleaning the HVAC components and lubricating the fan motor, etc. If you have any questions concerning your HVAC system in Atlanta, get in touch with Moncrief Heating & Air Conditioning.