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Air Conditioner Science: How Do Air Conditioners Work?

The science behind air conditioners is fascinating, yet most Americans don’t know how they work. However, learning about your air conditioner’s mechanics can give you insight into maintaining its optimal performance and efficiency.

Want to keep your air conditioner in top shape? First aim to understand how the air conditioner changes the atmosphere within your home.

Do Air Conditioners Work By Blowing Cool Air Into The House?

Contrary to popular belief, air conditioners don’t provide cooling by pushing cool air into your home. Instead, air conditioners remove unwanted heat from the indoor air, and then move the heat outdoors. The refrigerant system absorbs heat, and the compressor pumps the hot air away to facilitate the cooling process. The science of moving heat is referred to as thermodynamics.

What’s the Role of the Air Conditioner’s Refrigerant?

While the compressor pumps out heat, the refrigerant performs a more complicated process of thermodynamics – called the refrigerant cycle – that revolves around pressure and temperature change.  Essentially, the refrigerant captures and holds the hot air, then cools the house by converting the hot air into vapor or liquid. This liquid then moves into the evaporator coil, or cooling compartment. After that, the liquid moves outside the house as a low-pressure vapor. The process repeats as needed to combat increasing temperatures and humidity. Let’s look at a breakdown of this cycle:

  1. The compresser pulls air into the air conditioner unit and passes it to the refrigerant.
  2. The refrigerant absorbs the hot air, causing its own temperature to increase.
  3. The heated refrigerant moves outside and remains there while releasing heat.
  4. The refrigerant then cools as the warm air dissipates and becomes vapor.
  5. The other air conditioner components distribute this cooling effect throughout the house to cool the space.

If we think about a sweating athlete, it’s a similar concept. Exercise and internal body mechanics build up heat within the body, but sweat outside of the body is what provides cooling. Of course, the liquid and residual condensation generated by this process is all contained in the air conditioner unit.

Benefits of Air Conditioner Maintenance

Air conditioner technology is pretty efficient, but it isn’t impervious to wear and tear over time. The general lifespan and maintenance requirements can vary depending on your air conditioner’s model, but you should always be mindful of its performance. Even something as simple as a rattling sound could indicate a loose coil or damaged compressor, but that’s only one of the signs the air conditioner may need repairs or replacement.

To keep your house cool and avoid more costly repair fees, get your air conditioner looked at sooner rather than later. Allowing damages to continue, could force you to pay up to $12K or more to replace the unit entirely. Save yourself time, headaches, and discomfort by working with HVAC specialists as soon as you notice issues cropping up.

Need AC Services? Call Exxel!

At Exxel Mechanical Services, we’re committed to your air conditioner’s safety, quality, and performance, to ensure the most value from your unit as possible. To learn more about our flexible maintenance plans or schedule a free consultation, give us a call today at (443) 821-1040 or send a quick email to We’ll be happy to assist you!