Fascinating Facts: Air Conditioning

Just for fun, I like to explain the process of air conditioning to nearly all of my clients. The puzzled looks and gasps I always receive remind me of my own reaction when I first learned about how air conditioning actually works.

We know that heating systems work by adding heat to our homes, so it stands to reason that air conditioning systems work by adding cold air to our homes. While this seems true when we stand over registers and feel “cold” air coming out, this is actually not accurate.

In reality, there is no such thing as coldness. “Coldness” is not a measurable source of energy. Heat, on the other hand, IS a measurable source of energy, so there is really either heat or the absence of heat. So how do air conditioning systems work? Not by adding cold air to a space, but by removing warm air from a space. All heating and cooling systems function by either adding or removing heat from a home.

An air conditioning system uses refrigerant to absorb heat inside a house. As the refrigerant absorbs heat it changes into a low-pressure, low-temperature vapor. It makes its way to the outdoor condensing unit (condenser), which contains a compressor. The compressor then compressed the vapor, which causes it to change into a high-pressure, high-temperature vapor. As it moves through the condenser, it is condensed into liquid, at which point it releases energy (heat). If you hold your hand above an outdoor condensing unit, you should feel warm or hot air blowing out the top.

So the system is actually absorbing heat from inside the house and transporting it outside. As the refrigerant moves back inside the house in a cooler liquid form, it travels through an evaporator coil and blows cooler air (air with less heat) into the space. This gives the impression that the A/C system works by providing us with “cold” air, but in reality it is the removal of heat that makes the home drop in temperature.

Of course, this isn’t a “must know” piece of information, but it’s still a pretty fascinating fact. The next time you run your air conditioning system, think about how it’s actually functioning to remove heat from your home to cool off the interior and make you more comfortable.

*To visit our main website, go to http://www.hillinspections.com

Author: hillinspections

I am a Certified Professional Inspector (CPI) and the owner and operator of Hill Property Inspections LLC, based out of western Pennsylvania. I specialize in property inspections and environmental testing services and have a passion for helping my own clients and other families in learning to properly maintain their homes. I am an Army veteran, former State Farm Insurance Agent, and real estate investor with experience in all facets of real estate construction, transaction and insurance. I am also the founder and President of the Southwestern PA Chapter of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) and an affiliate member of the Cambria-Somerset Association of Realtors (CSAR).

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