Air conditioners have been around since 1902 and have become a necessity in the minds of pretty much everyone – especially if you live in a place like Houston. But if you ask the majority of people who own air conditioners what they know about them, the list would be pretty short.
Having a basic understanding of what parts make up your air conditioner and how those parts work together can help you better identify a problem or determine if your AC is running as efficiently as it should.
While the main function of your air conditioner is to cool your home, it also has a few other important jobs. This article from howstuffworks.com explains:
Air conditioners monitor and regulate the air temperature via a thermostat. They also have an onboard filter that removes airborne particulates from the circulating air. Air conditioners function as dehumidifiers. Because temperature is a key component of relative humidity, reducing the temperature of a volume of humid air causes it to release a portion of its moisture. That’s why there are drains and moisture-collecting pans near or attached to air conditioners, and why air conditioners discharge water when they operate on humid days.
If you have a central HVAC system, then you have what’s called a split-system air conditioner. This means that part of the system is inside (generally with your furnace) and part of the system is outside. The inside part is known as the “cold side” and the outside part is the “hot side.”
There are obviously more than four parts that make up your air conditioner, but so as not to overwhelm you, these are the four critical ones you should know about: the evaporator, condenser, compressor, and expansion valve.
The evaporator is located in the cold side of the air conditioner. Its main function is to receive liquid refrigerant and turn it into gas, which then cools and dehumidifies the air. The gas absorbs all of the heat from the air and takes it to the condenser.
The condenser is the counterpart to the evaporator and is located in the hot side of the air conditioner. It functions to bring that hot, condensed refrigerant gas back outside to vent the heat and turn the refrigerant back into a liquid form.
The compressor is a big electric pump that works with the condenser to turn the refrigerant back to liquid. It does this by pressurizing the refrigerant gas. The compressor is also located in the hot side of the air conditioner with the condenser.
- Expansion valve
The expansion valve works with the evaporator, but is usually located in-between the evaporator and condenser. Its job is to regulate how much liquid refrigerant is moving into the evaporator, where it then changes into gas.
Knowing these four main parts of your air conditioner and how they function can often help you figure out where the source of the problem might be if your A/C is not working properly. Some initial investigation gives you the ability to decide if the issue is something that needs immediate attention by a professional A/C repairman or not.
When in doubt, always call one of our skilled repairmen at Richmond’s Air to come check it out. You don’t want to be left with a broken system in the middle of the summer in Houston!
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