Air Conditioning 101

How Does Air Conditioning Work?

Air conditioning is defined as the process of treating air in order to control its temperature, humidity, cleanliness, and distribution.

An air conditioning system has 5 main components that it utilizes to treat air:

  • Evaporator – Receives the liquid refrigerant
  • Condenser – Receives hot refrigerant from a compressor and cools it
  • Expansion valve – Regulates refrigerant flow into the evaporator
  • Compressor – A pump that squeezes refrigerant into the condenser
  • Thermostat – Monitors and regulates temperature

Types of Air Conditioners

Depending on your house layout and size may change the type of system needed to efficiently cool your home. Below are the different types of AC units and how they may fit your needs.

Split System
The most common AC system is called a split system which has two components: an inside and an outside unit.

Condenser – An outdoor unit that absorbs heat by converting a gas to a liquid over and over again. This unit is typically installed outside of a home.

Air Handler – An indoor unit that circulates the cooled air throughout a building. This unit is usually located in a closet, garage and often in an attic.

Another common find is the ductless air conditioning system since it is one of the least expensive HVAC systems. It’s sometimes called a mini-split system. A ductless ac system features a mounted unit on the inside wall of a room in a house that blows cold air into a particular part of the building. 
A ductless system works the same as a regular AC unit, except there are no ducts distributing the air. Instead, the ductless system works solely through the fan installed inside the home.

Similar to a split system, a ductless system has two components: an outside unit and an inside unit.

Condenser – An outdoor unit that contains a compressor that absorbs heat by pumping and cooling the refrigerant through the copper lines to the indoor unit.
Evaporator – An indoor unit that contains a fan that is installed in the cooled area. This fan enables the indoor unit to absorb heat from the air inside and distribute the cooler air through the room.

Portable/Window Unit
These units are able to fit inside most windows, and are perfect for smaller rooms such as apartments, trailers and dorms. The portable system uses the same concepts as other system only they are much smaller. Blowers and fans move the cooled air into the room, while removing heat from the room. The refrigerant extracts heat from the air while also cooling the air.

Packaged Units
Packaged units are an all in one solution since they contain all the necessary components in a single cabinet. Instead of splitting the cold side from the warm side, they’re all together in one unit. The heating process uses either natural gas or electric heating element located inside the packaged unit.

Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner (PTAC) 
These units are also known as wall-split systems. PTAC systems are a type of packaged air conditioner that is usually installed through the wall of a building, such as a hotel room or senior living facility. This is done so the A/C controls are located in an easily accessible location on the unit inside the room. The coil extends out to the opposite side of the wall in order to exhaust the heat from the room to the outdoors.