How Does My A/C Actually Work? | R. A. Styron | Chesapeake, VA

Air Conditioning is a welcome relief during the heat waves that Hampton Roads area residents often experience. But do you actually know how your a/c works providing you with that much needed relief? Understanding the basics of your air conditioning system can help you identify and possibility prevent future problems.

Basic knowledge can help you understand when you may have an a/c issue or perform small repairs and maintenance to prolong the life of your system. Knowing common HVAC terms will be vital to understanding the ins and outs of air conditioning systems. These common terms are broken down in two different blogs, here and here, for your benefit.

All Air Conditioning Systems are made up of 5 main components.

  1. Evaporator Coil (found in the indoor unit)
  2. Condenser Coil (found in the outdoor unit)
  3. Compressor
  4. Fan
  5. Refrigerant

All five of these components must function properly in order to expel the hot air outside and circulate the cool air inside your home.


Cooling your home is a continuous cycle we here at R. A. Styron like to refer to as the “Circle of Cooling Life”. All A/C systems work in the same basic way; they start by removing the heat from the air inside your home and replacing with cooled air.

A fan inside your indoor system will start by pulling air through a grill mounted on your wall or ceiling. This air is then pushed across the evaporator coil where the heat is absorbed by the refrigerant inside of the coil. (We’ll dive into the process the refrigerant takes shortly.) This leaves you with cooled air that’s dispersed throughout your home through your supply ductwork. This process of “recycling” your indoor air over and over again is repeated until your home reaches the desired temperature you have your thermostat set to.

Before any air flows over your coils being cooled it is pushed through the filter installed behind that grill. This is why all HVAC companies heavily suggest keeping your filter clean by changing it often. Dirty filters will block ample air flow getting to your coils allowing them to freeze up. The air that does manage to make it’s way to your coils can carry dust and dirt with it leaving it behind on your coils. This will also lead to your coils freezing up leaving you with on a/c.

The refrigerant in your system also works by repeating the same type of process. This cycle is a bit more complex but can be explained fairly easily. This is where your outdoor system comes in to play working along with your indoor system.

Refrigerants are chemicals that have the ability to be converted from a gas to a liquid relatively easily. It is capable of both adsorbing and releasing heat by changing it’s form, temperature, and pressure.

The compressor’s job in your outdoor unit is to “pump” refrigerant throughout system; its often referred to as the “heart” of your air conditioner. Refrigerant enters the compressor in a low-pressure gas form then compressed and pushed out in a high-pressure gas. It then flows through your condenser coils that works along with a fan blowing air over the coils to release the heat from the refrigerant, allowing the heat to dissipate into the air outside. This process will turn the refrigerant into a liquid form sending it up to an expansion valve. This valve will release the correct amount of refrigerant in both vapor and liquid form into your evaporator coils. Remember we spoke about them earlier? The refrigerant passing through your evaporator coil will heat back up by absorbing the heated air blown across them turning it back into its gas form. Once it has done its job absorbing the heat from your indoor air, it then travels back down to the compressor to start the process all over again.

We hope this has helped you to better understand the basic function of your air conditioner. If you find that you need a professional who has the tools and knowledge to restore your air conditioning system R. A. Styron is only a phone call away. Our technicians come equipped with years of experience able to fix any problem your system may be experiencing and answer any additional questions you may have.


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