Air Conditioning Basics

Excerpt: You rely on your air conditioning to keep your home comfortable when it’s hot and sticky outside. This article explores the basics behind air conditioner operation and outlines a few of the most common problems you may encounter.

Air conditioning removes heat and humidity from indoor air to help your home’s interior stay cool and comfortable, even during the height of summer. Learning how this vital system works to keep your home cool and comfortable will help you more easily spot problems or make simple changes that could boost your home’s cooling efficiency to enjoy lower energy bills. If you have further questions about air conditioning in Charleston, SC, or how you can prevent many of the most common cooling problems you’re likely to encounter, your air conditioning professional can make a thorough evaluation of your system to provide personalized advice and tips.

Essential Air Conditioner Components

Unlike your furnace, which is a single, contained appliance, central air conditioners have several key components. The indoor portion of the system, called the evaporator, is typically located above or beside your furnace. In central air systems, the air conditioner and the furnace share a single air handler motor, which creates the airflow needed to draw air in for cooling and then distribute the treated air through your ducts to the rest of your home. An air filter, located just behind the return air vent, screens out dirt and dust to reduce buildup inside the appliance. Refrigerant lines run between the evaporator and the outdoor component of your air conditioning, called the condenser, which is typically located on a small concrete pad beside your home. A drain line also runs from the interior evaporator to the exterior of your home, which funnels away excess moisture pulled from the air during dehumidification.

The Cooling Cycle

When your home’s thermostat notes that the ambient temperature is above your desired set temperature, it activates the air conditioner for cooling. As air is drawn into the evaporator, it is blown across the evaporator coil. Inside the coil is a low pressure/low temperature liquid refrigerant; the refrigerant absorbs heat from the air and turns into a gas. The refrigerant is then pumped to the outdoor condenser, where it is turned into a high pressure/high temperature gas. Next, the refrigerant radiates away its heat, cooling down again before it is pumped back inside and its pressure is reduced so it can begin the process again as a low pressure/low temperature liquid.

Common Air Conditioning Problems

Many common air conditioning problems occur when issues affect the system’s ability to move air across the coil or cool it properly. Low levels of refrigerant can cause the air conditioner to blow warm air despite your temperature setting. Issues such as ice on the evaporator coil, damaged or blocked condenser fins, and a dirty filter can all contribute to poor airflow that reduce cooling and strain the air handler’s motor. If you experience a problem with your air conditioning or aren’t sure why your cooling bills have suddenly skyrocketed, contacting a professional to evaluate your system is the best way to prevent small problems from becoming long-term issues that affect the longevity of your system. Regular maintenance is the best way to prevent or address problems you may not have noticed, so talk to your air conditioning service about scheduling biannual tune-ups to improve cooling performance as well.

Are you interested in learning more about air conditioning in Charleston, SC? We invite you to check out the other articles in our blog to keep up to date on the latest home HVAC news. If you need help with your air conditioning or want to schedule maintenance service, click on over to our website to make an appointment online.

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