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How Air Conditioners Work – World Class AC
Your Home Air Conditioning System : How it Works

how air conditioners work

Your Air Conditioner’s Key Components
Components of modern residential and commercial air conditioners (with credit to Wikipedia for the above illustration):

  • Cooling Coils
  • Temperature Sensing Bulb
  • Indoor Air Intake
  • Expansion valve
  • Blower
  • Compressor
  • Fan Axle
  • Fan
  • Condenser Coils

If you understand your home’s AC’s key components, you can better understand what your service tech explains to you. At World Class AC, we try to educate our customers about their systems. We believe this gives you more confidence when it comes to making decisions about your system.

Understanding the Basic Electrical Components of an Air Conditioner

Above is a list of the larger components of the typical air conditioning system.

The following are the smaller parts of an Air Conditioner:

  • Relays: Open and Close. These take electrical current (power) from one part of the air conditioner to other parts.

Think about relays as drawbridges. Either they are open (the drawbridge is up; the current can’t cross over and activate other parts of the system) or closed (the drawbridge is down; electric current, like car traffic, can cross over and power the sub component). You can only drive over a drawbridge when it’s down; current can only cross to another part when the relay is open.

Each relay differentiates itself based on how it’s activated and what type of current is needed to function. Suppose we need 24 volts to cause the relay to close. We would need to be able to apply or measure that 24 volts is indeed at the source of the relay. This is the basis that allows us to make sure that the relay is functioning and receiving enough volts to become engaged.

There are various kinds of relays. A time-delayed relay, for example, is a relay activated by a current (power source) but with the capacity for a time delay in activation. When troubleshooting a/c problems, it’s important to know if a relay is time-delayed or not.

  • A/C Transformers get voltage and transform it. For instance you may have high voltage (115 V) in and 24 Volts out. A transformer converts the current so that it’s the right amount for smaller (or sub) components.
  • A/C Capacitors store electrical charge for individual components.

More on How Residential Air Conditioners Work

Ever wondered how an air conditioner works? Here’s a summary, with a video below.

Air conditioners suck in air from below the air handler. This air is directed over the evaporation coils and is cooled by refrigerant inside the coils. The air then travels through airducts and returns to the room, blowing out as cold air. Filters clean the air so that contaminants can’t build up on the evaporation coils. Meanwhile the heat that has been absorbed by the refrigerant in the coils makes the refrigerant expand. As it expands, it turns into an evaporated gas and is sent to the condenser unit outside. This condenses the gas back into a fluid by removing the heat (thank the fan for that).


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