From Coils to Coolant: How Your AC Unit Actually Works

Depending on who you ask, the first air conditioner was invented sometime around 1902. We do know that it’s called an “air conditioner” thanks to its usefulness in solving a humidity issue at a lithography studio in Brooklyn; cold water pumped through pipes lowered the humidity of the air, stabilizing the moisture content of the paper being processed.An Air Conditioner has two main jobs:
1. To move heat from inside the house to the outside of your house
2. To remove moisture from the air
At MTB Mechanical, people ask us all the time how their air conditioning unit actually works. Things have changed a lot over the last 100 years but let’s take a look at the way today’s common cooling systems run…
Step One:
Warm air inside the room is sucked into a grille that’s exposed to the rest of the room. From there, the warm air flows over “chiller” pipes that are being circulated with coolant fluid – the most well-known of which is Freon. (Note: Freon is just a brand name for R-22, a coolant that’s gradually being phased out in favor of the more environmentally-sound R-410A, aka Puron.)
Step Two:
Once the warm air hits the cooling coils, it’s temperature is significantly lowered. A dehumidifier inside the machine also removes any excess moisture from the air. In this way, your air conditioner is much like your refrigerator!
Step Three:
A fan at the top of the system blasts air back into the room through separate grilles, namely your air vents. This air is much colder and dryer than it was to begin with, depending on the temperature you’ve set your thermostat on.
Step Four:
As you’re feeling cool air, the coolant inside the machine is picking up heat from the surrounding air. As it does this it heats up, evaporating (with the help of evaporation coils) and creating a gas inside the pipes. The heated air then travels through your ducts while the coolant goes through a compressor unit where coils turn it back into a liquid. The hot air escapes to the outside of your home where a fan disperses it quickly.
Today’s air conditioners are light years more efficient than those of the 1900s, 1950s, and even 1980s. They run using less energy and when sized correctly for the space, only cool as much air as needed to impact the internal temperature of the building.
There are several components involved in making your home or business a comfortable place to be this time of year. Whether it’s your compressor, your coolant, or your coils, every piece of your unit is a vital part of the puzzle. MTB Mechanical is your Charlotte air conditioning expert. How can we help you today?
Call us now to take advantage of one of our limited-time AC promotions!