How does an air conditioner work? Air conditioners and refrigerators work the same way. Instead of cooling just the small, insulated space inside of a refrigerator, an air conditioner cools a room, a whole house, or an entire business. Air conditioners use refrigerants that easily convert from a gas to a liquid and back again. The refrigerant is used to transfer heat from the air inside of a home to the outside air. Air conditioners have three main parts: a compressor, a condenser and an evaporator. The compressor and condenser are usually located on the outside air portion of the air conditioner. The evaporator is located on the inside of the house in an air handler. The refrigerant arrives at the compressor as a cool, low-pressure gas. The compressor compresses the refrigerant which packs the molecules of the refrigerant closer together. The closer the molecules are together, the higher its energy and its temperature. The refrigerant leaves the compressor as a hot, high pressure gas and flows into the condenser. If you looked at the air conditioner part outside a house, look for the part that has metal fins all around. The fins act just like a radiator in a car and help the heat go away, or dissipate, more quickly. When the refrigerant leaves the condenser, its temperature is much cooler and it has changed from a gas to a liquid under high pressure. The refrigerant goes into the evaporator through a very tiny, narrow hole. On the other side, the liquid’s pressure drops. When it does, it begins to evaporate into a gas. As the liquid changes to gas and evaporates, it extracts heat from the air around it. The heat in the air is needed to separate the molecules of the fluid from a liquid to a gas. The evaporator also has metal fins to help exchange the thermal energy with the surrounding air. By the time the refrigerant leaves the evaporator, it is a cool, low pressure gas. It then returns to the compressor to begin its trip all over again. Connected to the evaporator is a fan that circulates the air inside the house to blow across the evaporator fins. Hot air is lighter than cold air, so the hot air in the room rises to the top of a room. There is a vent there where air is sucked into the air conditioner and goes down ducts. The hot air is used to cool the gas in the evaporator. As the heat is removed from the air, the air is cooled. It is then blown into the house through other ducts located in the ceiling.
This continues over and over and over until the room reaches the temperature you want the room cooled to. The thermostat senses that the temperature has reached the right setting and turns off the air conditioner. As the room warms up, the thermostat turns the air conditioner back on until the room reaches the temperature.