FAQ - How does air conditioning work?

FAQ - How does air conditioning work?

When it comes to the Australian summer, it just keeps getting hotter and hotter. Then is when your air conditioner comes into its own, performing real magic and setting your rooms to the perfect temperature. But how do they actually do it? Very similar to a fridge actually. We have broken down the elements of an air conditioner (AC) to explain.

The simple explanation

Air conditioners work with evaporation - evaporating water cools down air. It’s the same effect you feel when getting out of the water and immediately feeling cold. What happens is the water evaporates off your skin taking the heat off your body to turn it from liquid to gas. It’s the same science that explains why sleeping with a damp blanket or hanging a wet towel in front of your window works to cool down your home without air conditioner – it’s so simple, evaporating water extracts heat from the air. So your air conditioner is moving heat from the inside of your home to the outside.

air conditioner function

The scientific explanation

There are 3 key elements to an air conditioner; the compressor, the condenser and the evaporator. The compressor is located outside your home, together with the condenser, while the evaporator lives inside your home.

Then there’s also the refrigerant which is a gas that lives inside your air conditioner and travels between elements, changing temperature on the way. The following is the 4-step process the refrigerant passes through – and the same thing happens in your fridge!

1)      The fluid arrives at the compressor as a cool, low-pressure gas. The compressor then squeezes the fluid, packing the molecule of the fluid closer together, therefore increasing its energy and its temperature. So it leaves the compressor as a hot, high pressure gas.

2)      The gas flows into the condenser, where the opposite happens and molecules get condensed, therefore temperature drops and the refrigerant turns from a gas to a liquid under high pressure.

3)      The liquid goes into the evaporator through a very tiny, narrow hole in your wall from the outside to the inside. On the inside, the liquid's pressure drops, and when this happens it begins to evaporate into a gas, extracting heat from the air around it.

4)      The cool, low-pressure gas then travels to the compressor again and this process begins anew.

This cycle, combined with the air conditioner sucking air in from your room cooling it down while blowing the hot air out on the outside is what cools down your home.

When things go wrong

Constant airflow is important, so when this doesn’t happen you will run into issues – we’ve put together a handy guide with the most common ones here . In the end it all comes down to proper cleaning and maintenance of your air conditioner which will ensure you will be able to enjoy your unit for many years to come!

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