How Exactly Do Air Conditioners Work?

They are a huge relief when it comes to the hot, stuffy weather creeping up in the Summer months. But how exactly do air conditioners get the temperature of your room down so well, and where does that hot air go?

History Of Air Conditioners

The first ever air conditioning system was invented in 1902 by a young electrical engineer named Willis Haviland Carrier. He wanted to cool down the humid office of a publishing company in New York, as it was damaging the quality of the printing paper.

The basic premise was that the hot air was blown across cool pipes. As seeing cold air doesn’t carry as much moisture as hot air, the humidity decreased, as did the temperature along with it. A new appliance was born.

Air Conditioning Basics

Air conditioners are one of the best ways to cool down a room quickly. Instead of moving hot air around the room like a fan, or absorbing the heat but releasing it again in some other form (such as heat from a motor), they take the hot air and convert it into cooler air.

Warm air is sucked in through the grille on the appliance, and this then flows over some cold chiller pipes within the unit using small fans. Coolant fluid circulates through these pipes, so they will always remain cold.

The hot air, which is in the form of a gas, is converted into a liquid which helps it to cool down more, and it is then converted back into a gas before being released into the air again. Essentially, the air is recycled, which keeps the room well aired but is also very energy efficient.

Many air conditioners can also work as heaters because the temperature of the chiller pipes can be adjusted, so the recycled air can be heated just as easily as it can be cooled. The process is explained and broken down below, but this cycle can happen several times before the desired temperature is reached.

how do air conditioner units work

Parts Of An Air Conditioner

  • Evaporator – A heat exchange coil responsible for collecting heat from inside a room through a refrigerant gas
  • Compressor – Where the gas is compressed, as the name suggests. This heats the it up, increasing the pressure and allowing it to travel onwards
  • Condenser – The condenser receives the vapourised gas from the compressor, and then converts it to liquid to get rid of the heat
  • Expansion Valve – Situated between the cold coils of the evaporator and hot coils of the condensor, this valve keeps tabs on the amount of refrigerant moving towards the evaporator. The cool refrigerant ends up back where it started

Why Do Air Conditioners Have An External Pipe?

This large duct is for the rejected hot air to be removed entirely from the room. Some moisture is simply not needed as it increases the pressure of the gas and liquid passing through the system which takes it longer to cool down.

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