How Does My AC Work?

There are four major parts to any central AC system that keep it running smoothly. These are:

  1. Evaporator Coil: This part of the system is found inside the AC handler. It is used to absorb heat and help keep your house cool. The evaporator coil cools and dries the air surrounding it, on its way through the ductwork and into your home. 
  2. Compressor: Found alongside the evaporator coil in the outside cabinet. The compressor is responsible for warming the refrigerant into a denser form. 
  3. Condenser Coil: The main job of the condenser coil is to release heat from the refrigerant. Both the evaporator and condenser coil have similar but opposing jobs. The evaporator coil absorbs heat while the condenser coil expels it. During this part of the process, the refrigerant goes from an extremely high heat vapor to a hot liquid. 
  4. Expansion Valve: Refrigerant gets turned back into a cold mist using the expansion valve. This valve decreases the pressure of the refrigerant, removing the heat and changing its form at the same time. 

Step By Step:

  1. Cold refrigerant enters the evaporator coil, drawing latent heat from the air and causing the refrigerant to transform from cold mist into warm vapor.
  2. Warm vapor is compressed into denser form using the compressor, increasing its heat and pressure.
  3. Pressurized refrigerant moves into the condenser coil and turns into hot liquid using air brought in by the condenser fan.
  4. Refrigerant changes from liquid back to vapor due to great pressure decrease in the expansion valve, expelling excess heat at the same time. 
  5. Repeat Steps 1-4 Consistently 

What can I do to maintain the system?

There are a few things you can do from home to help keep the system up and running. Any at home maintenance should be done carefully as to not damage any of the components. Anyone could help the system by removing blockages around the exterior of the condenser. There are other ways to help your system without a professional, but it is crucial to be careful as it requires some tool use and removal of certain parts. 

Here are the more advanced maintenance procedures:

Be sure to shut the power off both near the condenser and at the breaker box. It is very important to do so as there are many moving parts that have the potential to injure someone. 

Using a wrench or screwdriver, the fan cage can be removed. After using the proper tool on the fasteners, the cage can be lifted and taken out. Any debris in the interior can then be moved by hand or vacuum. 

You can now remove the outer covers and use a brush attachment on a vacuum to remove any build up on the sides of the unit. A gentle hose stream can be sprayed through the fins from the inside out to remove any debris stuck between the fins. Be careful to use a gentle stream as a high pressure one can damage the unit.  

Any visible dirt build up can be carefully cleaned and dried. Fins on the side of the unit can also be straightened. Parts of the unit such as filters can be replaced but it is recommended that a professional comes to do more complicated procedures such as these. 

What should I save for the professionals?

Anything else can be left for a professional. It is recommended to get your system serviced twice a year to keep performing the best that it can. During this maintenance, they may also come across some small issues that could be easy to miss unless you are trained in this field. Having a technician tune up your AC system can save you from a lot of headaches between maintaining the system’s performance and getting a head start on any issues that could be starting to show. 

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