Brief History
Home AC & its working
Components & Functionality
 

Fundamentals

Home AC & its working

An air conditioner is basically a refrigerator without the insulated box. However, 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 chemicals that easily convert from a gas to a liquid and back again. This chemical, called a refrigerant, is used to transfer heat from the air inside of a home to the outside air.

The machine has three main parts: a compressor, a condenser and an evaporator. The compressor and condenser are usually located on the part of the air conditioner that's outside. The evaporator is located inside the house.

 

The refrigerant arrives at the compressor as a cool, low-pressure gas. The compressor squeezes the fluid. This packs the molecule of the fluid closer together making them get hot.

The working fluid 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 working fluid leaves the condenser, its temperature is much cooler and it has changed from a gas to a liquid under high pressure. The liquid goes into the evaporator through a very tiny, narrow hole. This is the expansion valve on the diagram. 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. This takes place inside the room where a fan blows air across metal fins that have been chilled by this process. In doing so the internal air is cooled

By the time the working fluid leaves the evaporator, it is a cool, low-pressure gas. It then returns to the compressor to begin its trip all over again.

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.

BTU and EER

Most air conditioners have their capacity rated in British thermal units ( BTU ). Generally speaking, a BTU is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound (0.45 kg) of water 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.56 degrees Celsius). Specifically, 1 BTU equals 1,055 joules. In heating and cooling terms, 1 "ton" equals 12,000 BTU. A typical window air conditioner might be rated at 10,000 BTU. For comparison, a typical 2,000-square-foot (185.8 m 2 ) house might have a 5-ton (60,000-BTU) air conditioning system, implying that you might need perhaps 30 BTU per square foot. (Keep in mind that these are rough estimates. To size an air conditioner for your specific needs, contact an HVAC contractor.)

The energy efficiency rating ( EER ) of an air conditioner is its BTU rating over its wattage. For example, if a 10,000-BTU air conditioner consumes 1,200 watts, its EER is 8.3 (10,000 BTU/1,200 watts). Obviously, you would like the EER to be as high as possible, but normally a higher EER is accompanied by a higher price.