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How Does Central Air Conditioning Work?

Living in an area that has hot summers and generally warm weather during a large part of the year makes it necessary to have a central air conditioning system in your home. While keeping doors and windows open is a great option to enjoy fresh air during the cooler days of spring and fall, an efficient central air conditioning system will help you experience this crisp coolness during the sweltering summer days as well.

Central air is an energy-efficient technology that is easy to maintain and provides great flexibility with indoor climate control. With central air, you can maintain uniform temperature and humidity throughout your living space. The system pulls indoor air through an air filter before cooling and recirculating it through your home. These features ensure your health as well as comfort.

What Is Central Air Conditioning?

The basic concept of air conditioning consists of a refrigerant that is converted from gas to liquid, and vice versa, to cool indoor air and recirculate it within the same space. In effect, the system transfers heat and humidity from the inside of your home to the outside while circulating cooled air within your home. Central air is synonymous with a split-system air conditioner. In essence, a split system consists of two units comprising an indoor unit and an outdoor unit, which are connected by copper pipes. In addition to cooling indoor air, a central air conditioning system also decontaminates the air, maintains an optimum level of humidity, ensures ideal airflow within your home, and allows you to control the temperature level. All these features collectively guarantee clean, safe air as well as energy efficiency.

What Are the Components?

A central air conditioning unit is made up of several components that work in harmony to cool indoor air:

  • Refrigerant: This is a chemical that cyclically changes from liquid to gas and back inside the air conditioning system.
  • Compressor: This compresses the refrigerant to convert it from a low-pressure gas to a high-pressure liquid.
  • Condenser coils: These contain liquid refrigerant that release heat as they turn from gas to liquid.
  • Fans. Fans blow the released heat from the gaseous refrigerant in the condenser coils back into the outside air.
  • Evaporator coils: These contain liquid refrigerant that absorbs heat from the air blowing over the coils. The heat is then turned into cool gas.
  • Blower fans: These blow air over the evaporator coils.
  • Air filters: These remove contaminants from the air entering the central air conditioning system.
  • Ducts: Ducts transport indoor air into the central air conditioning system, carry cooled air out of it and circulating it throughout the home.
  • Thermostat: This allows you to set the temperature threshold within which the air is to be cooled.

A split-system central air conditioning consists of two units called the indoor unit and the outdoor unit. The indoor unit is called the cold side of the system, and the outdoor unit is called the hot side. The indoor unit consists of the evaporator coils, the blower fan and the air filter. The outdoor unit contains the compressor, the condenser coils and the fan that dissipates heat to the outside. The indoor and outdoor units are connected by a copper pipe that carries the refrigerant back and forth. The indoor and outdoor units work in tandem to create a cycle of condensing and evaporating refrigerant. This cyclical process absorbs heat from the indoor air, transfers it outside and releases it to the atmosphere.

A refrigerant is a chemical that readily changes from gas to liquid when compressed or put under high pressure. It readily changes back to a gas when that pressure is released. It absorbs heat when it evaporates into a gas and releases heat when it condenses into a liquid.

The condenser and evaporator coils are made of copper, which has a high measure of thermal conductivity. It conducts heat eight times better than other substances. This makes it the ideal material for pipes carrying a refrigerant, which needs to absorb heat from the air blowing over the outer surface of the pipes. It also needs to dissipate heat from within the pipes to the outside.

Ducts are a network of indoor air ducts that circulate air within the home. Return air ducts pull air into the central air system through an air filter and transport it to the air conditioning system. Supply air ducts carry cooled air from the air conditioning system and release it into the interior of the home.

Air filters remove particulate matter like dust and lint, microbial contaminants like mold spores and bacteria, and irritants such as pollen and pet dander.

How Does It Work?

The thermostat initiates the cooling process of the central air conditioning system. When you set the desired indoor temperature using the thermostat, a signal is sent to the air conditioning system, initiating the cycle of heating and cooling the refrigerant.

Return air ducts first pull indoor air into the system through an air filter, which cleans the air. This air is then passed over the cold evaporation coils carrying liquid refrigerant. As the refrigerant evaporates, it absorbs heat from the air outside the coils and cools it. Blower fans keep this air circulating over the coils so that the air cools thoroughly. The fans then pump this cleaned and cooled air back into the supply duct to be dispersed throughout the home. At this point, the process is passed on from the indoor unit to the outdoor unit.

The refrigerant gas passes through connecting copper pipes to the compressor in the outdoor unit. It is pressurized to convert it back to a liquid and pumped through condenser coils. As it condenses, the refrigerant releases the indoor heat that was previously absorbed in its gaseous state. A large fan blows exterior air over the condenser coils and helps dissipate this heat back to the outside. The liquid refrigerant passes through another copper tube, an expansion unit and a regulator valve into the evaporation coils. The regulator valve controls the amount of refrigerant entering the evaporation coils. The refrigerant expands and absorbs heat in the process, continuing the cycle of air conditioning.

While split-system air conditioners are the most common type of central air conditioning systems, packaged systems are also available. Packaged systems work on the same basic concept as a split system but are not divided into and indoor and outdoor units. They are preferable in situations where sufficient space is not available for an indoor unit.

Central air conditioning not only cools indoor air, but it also cleans and dehumidifies it. It allows for even heating throughout your home. A split system has the noisier part of the system installed outside your home, making the system a quiet one. Central air conditioning has become more energy efficient with the incorporation of smart technology that learns your usage patterns. Having it installed in your home will increase its resale value, as buyers view it as a necessary feature. It is low maintenance, so an annual inspection and small fixes along the way when needed will suffice. With all these benefits, central air conditioning is the ideal and convenient choice for your home cooling needs.

If you’re looking to install a central air conditioning system in Tucson, AZ, call us at Rite Way Heating, Cooling & Plumbing. Established in 1959, we have served Tucson, AZ, and the surrounding areas and earned an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. We are recipients of the Angie’s List Super Service Award and the Arizona Daily Star Reader’s Choice Favorite Award for 2020. Our team of experienced and certified technicians will help you with heating and cooling installation, repair and maintenance services. We provide excellent plumbing services as well.

Call us today at Rite Way Heating, Cooling & Plumbing to schedule an appointment.