How Does My Air Conditioning System Work?

How much do you know about your air conditioning system? Most people have a strong understanding of how to use the thermostat to turn it on, off and adjust the temp, but beyond that . . . it’s pretty fuzzy. The problem is, understanding the basics of how your A/C system works not only makes you a more well-rounded homeowner, it also makes things easier when it’s time to call for a repair or shop for a new system. So it’s well worth taking a few minutes to learn how the whole thing works!

Let’s take a look at the anatomy and workings of a typical A/C system.

The Parts Inside Your Home

Plenum  This is the technical name for the metal box that sits on top of your furnace or air handler (if you have a vertical furnace in a basement) or on one end of it (if you have a horizontal furnace in the attic). It houses the evaporator coil and the compressor, and it is connected to the ductwork system that allows cooled air to disperse throughout your home.

Evaporator coil – One of the main parts housed inside the plenum, this coil holds the refrigerant that absorbs heat. When combined with the blower element in your air handler or furnace, this “indoor coil” or “evaporator core” is what creates the cold air you love on a hot August day.

Condensate drain – This is the pipe (typically white PVC) that runs from the evaporator coil to either a drain in the floor or to a condensate pump. The moisture (condensate) that is created by the evaporator coil is removed from the plenum using this pipe and drain/pump combo.

Ductwork – This is the system of sheet metal ducts that run throughout your house. Cooled (or heated) air is forced through the ductwork by the blower, allowing it to travel to the different areas of your home.

The Parts Outside Your Home

Condenser – The big, round-cornered box-y fan thing that sits outside your house? That’s your condenser, sometimes referred to as the “outside unit.” It is made up of a compressor, evaporator fins, and a condenser coil and is connected to the house by the lineset.

Compressor – The compressor lives inside the condenser. When the refrigerant vapor arrives in its loose gaseous form, it has to be heated and compressed, a process which packs the molecules closer together and brings the energy higher. Then, it travels to the condenser coil to be cooled into a high-pressure liquid.

Condensor coil – The condenser coil functions as a heat exchanger system powered by evaporator fins (the fan) that cool down and condense the heated refrigerant vapor into liquid, simultaneously releasing the heat to the outside air. The cooled liquid is then sent inside the home to the evaporator coil using the lineset.

Lineset – This thin copper piping connects the condenser coil and the evaporator coil. Its job is to maintain high pressure on the cooled refrigerant liquid as it is transferred inside and then released into the evaporator coil, where the sudden decrease in pressure causes the refrigerant to pull heat from the air (thereby cooling the air) and return to a gaseous state.

Now you know how the whole system works together to keep your home cool and comfortable. If you suspect any part of your A/C system is acting up, give us a call at (330) 499-4988 and we’ll be happy to take a look!

Dubunked! 6 Air Conditioning Myths

Myth #1: Bigger is better

Bigger does not necessarily mean more efficient when it comes to air conditioners. Size does matter, but it’s all about finding the right size for your home. An air conditioning unit that’s too big may turn off quickly and won’t be able to properly dehumidify the air in your home.

Myth #2: Setting the thermostat really low will cool the house faster

It may be tempting to crank the temperature down on your thermostat on a really hot day, hoping that your home will cool quickly. In reality, your system will cool your house down at the same speed no matter how low your thermostat is set. Setting it lower than your desired temperature will only leave you with a frigid house and wasted energy.

Myth #3: Serving your unit is a waste of money

Wrong! AC units need cleaned and serviced just like any other piece of heavy machinery. Your regularly schedule maintenance appointment not only ensures your system is functioning correctly now but could help you avoid an emergency call to your HVAC company and the costs associated with a breakdown down the road.

Myth #4: It’s cheaper to leave the thermostat at the same temperature all day, even when you aren’t at home

Don’t pay to cool an empty home! It’s a common myth that your unit has to work harder to cool your house back down if you turn up the temperature while you’re not there, which isn’t a true. If you’re gone for long periods of time during the day, consider a programmable thermostat which can increase the temperature while you’re gone and decrease it shortly before you return home.

Myth #5: You won’t need the AC as much if you keep the ceiling fans on

Fans do a great job of circulating air and have a great cooling effect but they don’t actually reduce the temperature of the room. If you are sitting in a room with a ceiling fan, use the cooling effect to your advantage and turn down the thermostat a little. Otherwise, there’s no need to keep them on when you aren’t in the room or the house.

Myth #6: It doesn’t matter where your thermostat is placed

Thermostat placement can make or break your comfort levels and your energy bills. Placing a thermostat in a sunny or generally warm area will cause it to register a higher temperature, communicating to your air conditioner that it needs to work harder. As a rule of thumb, always place your thermostat in a centralized location away from sunlight, drafts, windows and doors.

Staying Cool While We Repair Your Air

We’re entering the dog days of summer in Northeast Ohio, and it is HOT. With temps nearing triple digits, the sun beating down for over 14 hours each day, and air quality best described as “muggy,” now is not a good time to be without A/C. But despite your best efforts to maintain and care for the system, sometimes your AC unit just . . . breaks.

When this happens, we know you’ll be dialing 330-499-4988 for a speedy service call, day or night, but what do you do in the interim? How can you keep your cool while we fix your A/C? Check out these creative ideas to keep the heat at bay while you wait.

Keeping Cool: Tips and Tricks

Cultivate a cross breeze

Point one box fan out a window on the side of your house that gets the hottest, and put another one in front of a window on the cooler, shadier side with the fan facing indoors. The hot air will be pushed outside while cooler air is pulled in and circulated, making you much more comfortable (this technique works best when the outdoor temp is lower than indoors).

Wear lightweight, natural-fiber clothes

During the day and at night, wear light-colored clothes made of loose cotton or linen to maximize air flow around your body and minimize heat absorption.

Make a DIY air conditioner

You know that blast of cold air on your face when you first open the freezer door? It’s like a little slice of heaven when your A/C is out. To keep that feeling going without defrosting all your vegetables, place a shallow bowl or pan of ice in front of a fan and cultivate a cool mist on your skin.

If you don’t have a large supply of ice cubes or an extra fan, you can also try hanging a wet sheet in front of an open window.

Cool your pulse points

Ice packs, cold compresses, or cool running water—anything chilly will work. Apply to the pulse points on your wrists, neck, elbows, and behind the knees for maximum effectiveness (short of full-body immersion).

Take a cold shower

Speaking of full-body immersion, sometimes that’s the best way to go. Rinse off under a stream of chilly water first thing in the morning and right before bed to bring down your body temp and cool your skin.

Drink lots of cold water

Sweating through the day and night will dehydrate you, making you even more miserable. Replenish your fluids with good ol’ H2O, and drink it ice-cold to cool you down from the inside out.

Get reacquainted with your basement

Thermodynamics 101: hot air rises, cold air sinks (sometimes 8th grade science really does come in handy!). Use this fact to your advantage by hanging out and sleeping on the lowest levels of your home, far away from the heat.

Shut the blinds and turn off the lights

Shut out the sun with blinds and curtains during the day to keep indoor temps lower, and keep the lights off whenever possible since bulbs give off heat.

Chill out and get a good night’s sleep

Use a damp cotton sheet as your only blanket to make evaporation work for you. If that isn’t cutting it, a fan blowing a cooling breeze across the damp sheet will keep you cooler than a cucumber.

Embrace cold food

Avoid using major appliances when possible, and don’t even think about firing up the stove or oven. Instead, fill up on salads, cold cuts, and gazpacho soup. If you can’t live without hot food, consider cooking outside on the grill.

Do you have any great tricks to beat the heat without A/C? Tell us!