Learn How Your A/C’s Refrigeration Cycle Works
The Wilmington area’s high summer temperatures make it important to care for your air conditioner if you expect it to keep you cool all season long. Understanding the refrigeration cycle and the role of each component in that cycle helps you perform better routine A/C maintenance.
The cooling process relies on a substance called refrigerant, which flows continuously through your air conditioning system, absorbing heat from your house and releasing that heat outdoors. As it does this, it changes between liquid and gaseous states.
The Low Side: Absorbing the Heat
The low pressure side of the refrigeration cycle occurs primarily in the indoor unit. Cold, low pressure refrigerant leaves the expansion valve and enters the evaporator coil. The blower fan moves warm indoor air over the coil, and the refrigerant absorbs heat from the air. As it does so, it turns into gas form. Water vapor in the air hits the cold coil and condenses into liquid that’s removed by the condensate drain. The cool, dehumidified air then flows out through your ducts to your rooms.
The High Side: Releasing the Heat
After picking up heat indoors, the hot, low pressure refrigerant gas leaves the evaporator coil and travels via copper pipes to the outdoor unit’s compressor, which raises the refrigerant’s pressure and temperature. Now a high pressure gas, the refrigerant enters the condenser coil. As the outdoor unit’s fan draws air across the coil, the refrigerant loses the heat it absorbed while inside your house and condenses back into liquid form.
The high pressure liquid refrigerant flows back through the copper tubing into your home and enters the expansion valve. This valve rapidly releases the pressure on the refrigerant, causing it to cool even further. The cold refrigerant re-enters the evaporator coil to start the refrigeration cycle all over again.
At Sobieski Services, Inc., our goal is to help our customers in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey learn more about energy and home comfort issues, especially HVAC and plumbing issues, so they can save money and live in healthier, more comfortable homes.
Photo Credit: Steve Snodgrass via Compfight cc