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How Does Air Conditioning Work?

12 May 2021

Author: Jeff O'Hara

Modern air conditioning, as we currently know it, was created in the early 1900s to solve a humidity problem at a printing company in Brooklyn, NY. The creator of the system was Willis Carrier, a name that has become almost synonymous with the air conditioning industry. Thanks to Mr. Carrier’s idea to treat warm, humid air by blowing it across pipes chilled with cold water, we can enjoy the benefits of air conditioning.

Of course, air conditioning systems have evolved a great deal since that first installation, with chemical refrigerants like ammonia and propane falling out of favor. These days, the air conditioning process involves the use of chemical refrigerants like freon or Puron.

Air conditioners manufactured after 2010 no longer use freon (R-22) as a refrigerant, as it is bad for the environment as it depletes the ozone layer. Since that time, freon has been replaced by Puron (R410A), which is safer for the environment, more efficient, and less expensive.

Enough Mumbo-Jumbo, How Does My Air Conditioner Work?

In modern central air conditioning systems, the entire home is cooled by a centrally located unit, the output of this unit is fed via ductwork to every room. The cooling of warm air recirculated from within the home is accomplished with a process called the vapor-compression cycle.

This process uses liquid refrigerant that is circulated under pressure to draw heat out of the air in the space to be cooled. Once the heat is pulled from the room air, that heat energy is re-routed to the outdoors or is recirculated through the system to be treated. This process repeats itself until the desired air temperature is reached, and the humidity level has been reduced.

From a mechanical standpoint, your air conditioner has four main parts, and they function like this:

Evaporator Coil:

 Holds compressed freon or Puron that evaporates from liquid to gas form, while removing the heat from the air.


The only function of the AC compressor is to “crush” the refrigerant, creating a chemical reaction that raises the temperature of the gas. The compressor continuously pumps refrigerant from the outdoor unit to the indoor portion of the system to reduce the air temperature.

Condenser Unit:

This part of the unit is used to transfer heat through a series of metal coils that dissipate the heat from inside the home. It is in the condenser where the refrigerant loses the heat that is picked up in the compressor and returns to a liquid state to start the process of cooling again.

Expansion Valve:

Controls the amount of refrigerant sent to the evaporator and removes the pressure from the earlier processes. Depressurizing the refrigerant allows it to cool off rapidly before being recirculated to repeat the heat removal process.

If you’re considering a new HVAC system, need repairs on your existing HVAC unit, or want to have your system checked out, Nick’s Air Conditioning are ready to help. Our trained and experienced HVAC techs will come to your home, assess your heating and cooling needs, and recommend what will work best for you and your family.

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