While understanding how your air conditioning system works may not be at the top of your to-do list, knowing some basic HVAC functions, like the refrigeration cycle, can help you get the most out of your system. Even better, a little know-how can help to improve the lifespan of your AC and help you determine whether or not you need the help of a professional when things go wrong.
No matter what type of air conditioning system you have, they all rely on the refrigerant cycle to cool your home. But what is the refrigerant cycle anyway?
One of the most important functions of your air conditioning system is the refrigeration cycle, yet few people know what it is and how it works. Here’s what you should know.
What is the Refrigeration Cycle?
Refrigeration is a process that removes heat from an area where it’s unwanted and moves it to another area. The refrigeration cycle is essentially the process of removing warm air from your home and replacing it with cooled, conditioned air.
How Does the Basic HVAC Refrigeration Cycle Work?
Think of the refrigeration cycle as a journey through your air conditioning system. As the journey takes place, various components of the system come into play. Here’s what a simplified version of the journey might look like:
Compressor: The compressor is the first stop. The refrigerant cycle is an intricate process that essentially starts here.
Evaporator Coils: As your air conditioner operates, the evaporator coils move a low-pressure gas to the compressor, which then turns it into a high-temperature and high-pressure gas.
Condenser Coils: The gas becomes hot and works its way through the condenser coils, which usually sit at the center of the condenser unit outdoors.
Exhaust Fan: From here, the condenser circulates the heated gas as the colder air from the outside is blown through the coils by the exhaust fan. The heat then dissipates and is dispersed outside, where it condenses the refrigerant into a liquid.
Expansion Valve: As the refrigerant becomes a liquid, it makes its way to the expansion valve, which is a small device that measures the flow of refrigerant. The expansion valve reduces the pressure of the refrigerant and lowers the temperature so it’s ready to cool your home. From here, the cold air is dispersed and the refrigeration cycle starts again.