How Do Air Conditioners Work, Anyway?

During a major heat wave, a properly functioning air conditioning system is a real relief. Families or office workers without this temperature-regulating appliance in their homes often flock to shopping malls, movie theatres, and other A/C-friendly locations just for a momentary escape from the heat. In some cases — as in industrial settings, data centres, food prep services, and any place where there are a lot of [people — proper air conditioning is an absolute must for operational machinery, human rights, and for food safety. And for some people, a lack of access to air conditioning can mean severe health problems — no wonder retirement care facilities and hospitals ensure that scorching heat and breath-taking humidity are kept at bay.

So how does the air conditioner work, exactly? The driving principle and scientific phenomenon that makes an air conditioner work is evaporation. Evaporating liquids feel cool. Try rubbing some alcohol on your hand or arm; you’ll notice that even if the alcohol is room temperature, your skin will feel cool while the liquid evaporates.

When it comes to the A/C outside your home, you’re dealing with refrigerant liquid, which evaporates at low temperature inside your unit and therefore makes a series of coils very cold. Heat is pulled from the refrigerant by a condenser, which compresses it at the same time. After the air is dragged across these cool coils, it makes its way into your home toward another item, the indoor evaporator coil, which is often near your furnace. An internal blower will shuffle the warm (or very hot) air in your home toward the coil, which in turn cools down the air and efficiently circulates it to each room. This system of evaporation is a continuous cycle, with the gas transforming to a liquid and then back to a gas, ensuring your house stays cool!

If all this sounds very similar to what happens inside your refrigerator, that’s because it’s the exact same process, which makes our technicians equally experienced with both appliances. If you’re curious about what it takes to repair air conditioners, then you’re probably (and rightly) imagining that problems can arise at a vast number of points. Fans can stop spinning properly; mechanical failure can mean the condenser stops compressing the refrigerant; cracks can mean escaping gas or liquid; filters, belts, and blowers can need total replacement. That’s why any job will benefit from a seasoned eye and a professional approach, taking into account hundreds (if not thousands) of similar repairs on similar models and a broad understanding of how different manufacturers design their units.

For some people, air conditioning isn’t a luxurious relief, but a matter of absolute necessity. For both residential and commercial AC repairs, remember to call us if you want to get your unit working quickly and without delay. We’re also available to provide preventative maintenance on functioning commercial units to save money down the road. It’s always cheaper to inspect and keep your eye on a unit before a major problem develops.

Stay cool this summer with your air conditioning experts, Toronto Refrigeration!