Infographic: How Does a Central Air Conditioner Work?

Posted on: August 7, 2013

Have you always wondered how your central air conditioner works? At Dowd’s Mechanical, Heating & Air Conditioning, we’re the experts on all things AC, and we have an answer to your question, “How does an air conditioner work?” Check out our infographic below to learn more about how your home stays cool!

How an Air Conditioner Works

(Click to enlarge)

How an Air Conditioner Works

Your air conditioner cools your home by continuing a heat transfer cycle. It all starts when you turn on your air conditioner and set the temperature below what the room temperature is. Here’s how it happens:

  1. The compressor (in the outdoor unit) condenses the refrigerant into a very cold liquid. The heat that has been removed from the refrigerant is blown out of your condenser with a fan.
  2. The cold refrigerant travels from the condenser to the evaporator inside your home.
  3. Air from your return duct (which draws in air from your home) is pushed upward through your filter and air handling unit by a blower so it can pass over the refrigerant-filled evaporator coils to be cooled.
  4. As the air passes over the evaporator coils, the refrigerant absorbs the heat and changes into a gas.
  5. The air continues into the supply duct and is recirculated back into your home. It takes multiple cycles of cooling before your indoor air reaches the temperature set on the thermostat.
  6. The refrigerant now returns back to the condenser to be compressed and start the cycle over again.

It takes multiple rounds of this cycle before your home reaches the set temperature on the thermostat, and it will take longer depending on how great the difference is between the thermostat temperature and the room temperature.

What If My Air Conditioner Isn’t Working Properly?

There are some common problems people have with their air conditioners that lead them to believe it’s not working, such as warm air or limited airflow. However, there are three main things you can do to make sure your AC is working properly:

Check the thermostat – make sure all of the thermostat settings are correct—that your system is on cooling mode and is set to the desired temperature.

Wait 30 minutes – it can take a couple rounds of cooling before the air coming out of your registers starts feeling very cool to the touch. Give your air conditioner about 30 minutes—if the air isn’t starting to feel cool by then, you may have a problem.

Change the air filter – this is often an overlooked part of air conditioning maintenance. You need to change the air filter every 1 – 3 months, depending on how much you’re using it; otherwise, it won’t perform correctly and can even lead to damage down the road, such as a frozen air conditioner.

Do you have more questions about your central air conditioner? Call Dowd’s Mechanical, Heating & Air Conditioning at 215-752-3638! We can help you will all your AC services in Philadelphia, PA and the surrounding areas. Contact us today!