Air conditioners are essential in modern life, especially in areas that have hot, humid summers. They’re not only necessary to keep your home cool but to ensure that your family is safe and comfortable.
There are several types of air conditioning or AC systems designed for different home sizes and needs. Understanding the different types of air conditioners, their anatomy, and how they work is an important part of keeping your system in top form.
Fortunately, the pros at Scottsdale Air are here to help! Let’s explore your AC system and unveil its anatomy and functionality, so you can gain a deeper appreciation and understanding for this vital appliance.
Types of Air Conditioning Systems
Even though they have the same basic function – cooling your home’s indoor air – there are several types of air conditioners:
Window AC Units
Window air conditioners are self-contained units that are designed to be installed in a window or a hole in the wall. These AC units are ideal for cooling individual rooms or small spaces, rather than your whole home.
Split Air Conditioners
Split air conditioners have an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. The indoor unit has the evaporator coil and cooling fan, while the outdoor unit has the compressor and condenser coil. This type of air conditioner can cool larger spaces or multiple rooms.
Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioners
Like split air conditioners, ductless mini-split air conditioners have an indoor and an outdoor unit but don’t require ductwork. These AC units are ideal for cooling specific zones or rooms where duct installation isn’t feasible. Each indoor unit is connected to the outdoor unit using refrigerant lines.
Central Air Conditioning Systems
Central air conditioners cool whole homes or larger areas by distributing cool air through ductwork. These systems are often combined with heating systems.
Key Components of Air Conditioners
Depending on the type of air conditioner, most units have the following components:
The compressor is the primary component for an air conditioner and circulates refrigerant between the indoor and outdoor units to maintain the refrigerant’s pressure and temperature.
The evaporator coil is located in the indoor unit and cools the air by absorbing heat from it. As the warm air passes over the coil, it cools it and releases the conditioned air into the room.
The condenser coil is located in the outdoor unit and releases the heat absorbed from the indoors into the outside air. It allows the refrigerant to release heat and return to a liquid state.
The expansion valve regulates the flow of refrigerant into the evaporator coil. It controls the temperature and pressure of the refrigerant as it moves through the cooling cycle.
Cooling fans are responsible for circulating air over the evaporator and condenser coils, enhancing the heat exchange and facilitating the cooling process.
Air filters trap dust, pollen, and other particles from the incoming air. Clean filters improve indoor air quality and ensure efficient cooling.
The thermostat is the user interface that allows you to set the desired temperature. This key feature controls the air conditioner’s operation based on temperature settings.
Blower or Air Handler
The blower or air handler pushes cooled air through the ductwork and into your home. The air handler also houses the evaporator coil in central air systems.
Refrigerant is a chemical compound that facilitates heat transfer by changing the state from a gas to a liquid and back to a gas during the cooling cycle.
Ductwork is used in central air conditioning systems to distribute cooled air throughout your home. The layout of your ductwork ensures efficient and evenly distributed cooling.
Exhaust or Drainage System
With window AC units, the exhaust hose or vent expels the hot air outside. Air conditioners also remove moisture from the air, which is then drained outside.
Sensors and Control Panel
Modern AC units have sensors to monitor temperature, humidity, and other factors to maximize efficiency. The control panel allows you to adjust settings and modes.
How Does an Air Conditioner Work?
At the most basic level, air conditioners work through two actions, one that takes place in the home and one that takes place outside of the home.
Inside, which is the “cold side” of the system, pulls warm indoor air inside and across the cold cooling coil full of refrigerant. The heat from the indoor air is absorbed into the refrigerant as it turns from a liquid to a gas. The cooled air is then distributed back into your home.
Outside, which is the “hot side” of the system, compresses refrigerant gas before it enters a large coil in the outdoor unit. The heat is released outside as the refrigerant turns back to a liquid and a large fan pulls outdoor air through the outdoor coil rejecting the heat absorbed from the house.
This is a continuous cycle of heat and humidity that’s removed from the indoor air, cool air being distributed into the home, and heat and humidity exiting the home.
The entire process is a little more complex, however:
- The thermostat, which is mounted on the wall in a central location, monitors and controls the temperature of the indoor air. The cooling process begins when the thermostat senses the air temperature needs to be reduced and sends signals to the AC to run.
- The fan from the indoor unit pulls hot air from inside the house through return air ducts. The air passes through the filters where dust, dirt, lint, and other contaminants are collected. The filtered, warm indoor air passes over the cold evaporator coil.
- As the liquid refrigerant inside the evaporator coil converts to a gas, heat from the indoor air is absorbed into the refrigerant, cooling the air as it passes over the coil. The indoor unit’s blower fan distributes the cooled air back into the home using ductwork.
- The refrigerant leaves the home through a copper tube and passes into the compressor in the air conditioning unit outside. The refrigerant gas is pressurized and sends the refrigerant into the outdoor unit’s condenser coil. A fan then pulls the outdoor air through the condenser coil, allowing it to absorb heat and release it outside.
- The refrigerant is converted back to a liquid during this process, which then travels through the copper tube back to the indoor unit. It passes through an expansion device, which regulates the flow of refrigerant into the evaporator coil. The cold refrigerant then absorbs more heat from the indoor air and the cycle continues.
How to Tell If Your AC Needs Service
There are many moving parts that contribute to the complex process that allows an air conditioning unit to do its job. If something goes wrong, it can lead to major repairs, or worse, a breakdown that leaves your home hot and uncomfortable.
Here are some signs that your AC needs service or repairs:
- Strange noises:Air conditioners make some noise during operator, but they shouldn’t be loud or produce odd sounds like gurgling, rattling, or strong humming. Any of these sounds could indicate that the air conditioner needs repair.
- Warm air:When your air conditioner is functioning properly, it should deliver cool air to your home through the vents. If the air is warm, this could be a sign of blocked air flow in your AC system or faulty compressor.
- Rapid cycling:When it’s hot, you can expect your AC unit to come on more often. But if it’s cycling on and off frequently, this could indicate a problem with its function.
- Ice buildup:Your air conditioner is supposed to be cold, but it shouldn’t have ice forming on the components. This could be caused by several things, including a pool of water forming under the air conditioner.
- High humidity:Air conditioners control heat and humidity. If your humidity is too high, even with the air conditioner on, your air conditioner isn’t functioning at its best.
- Odors:If your AC has strong odors, such as moldy or musty odors, it’s an indication that your AC needs a tune-up or professional cleaning.
- Weak air: If you have cool air blowing from your system but it’s weak, that’s a sign that the components are wearing out or malfunctioning.
- Breaker trips:If you have to reset the breaker when your AC is on, there’s an electrical issue. This is not a repair you want to wait on, as it could be a safety hazard.
- Malfunctioning fan:The fan in your outdoor central air unit should be spinning when the unit is in operation. If the fan isn’t on, the AC compressor can overheat and cause damage to the equipment.
- Malfunctioning thermostat: If your thermostat doesn’t seem to match the temperature inside, there could be a problem with the thermostat or the AC itself.
AC Repair and Maintenance from Scottsdale Air
The last thing you want is a broken AC in the middle of a hot summer. Regular AC maintenance and service can ensure your AC is operating at its best before the summer season hits. Contact us at Scottsdale air to schedule routine maintenance!