Reliable Heating & Cooling

Understanding the Essential Parts of an Air Conditioner

As a Michigan resident, your air conditioner is one of the most important appliances in your home. Without it, you won’t feel comfortable during the summer season.

However, for such an important appliance, the air conditioner feels like a black box sometimes. Looking at it as it works tirelessly to generate cool air may leave you wondering how it can perform that function.  

The essential parts of an air conditioner work in tandem right from when it comes on to absorb heat from your home and deliver cool air.  

As Hudsonville’s skilled HVAC contractor, we have a deep understanding of AC parts. We’ll discuss the most important ones in this post to improve your understanding of what goes on inside the box.

The Evaporator Coils

This part of the air condition contains the refrigerant responsible for pulling heat and humidity out of your home. The evaporator coil sits in the indoor unit for split air conditioner units and in the air handler for central air conditioners.

Cool refrigerant enters the evaporator coils, making them cool. As warm air from inside your home blows over the coils, they absorb the heat and cool down the air. The fans behind the evaporator coils blow the cool air back inside, lowering the temperature inside your home.

Most air conditioners have copper evaporator coils because copper is better at thermal conductivity. However, some units also contain steel or aluminum coils. If you have to choose between an air conditioner that has copper evaporator coils and one that has steel or aluminum coils, always choose copper.

The Compressor

As the name implies, the compressor compresses the refrigerant, converting it from warm vapor to a hot compressed liquid. It will continue the process for as long as the air conditioner works. Without the compressor acting on the refrigerant, it will struggle to give up the absorbed heat.

Some people in the HVAC industry argue that the compressor is one of the most important parts of an air conditioner, and it’s easy to see why. This component is responsible for a sizable chunk of an air conditioner’s energy consumption. It’s also the most expensive part of the system.

The compressor sits in the outdoor unit for all types of air conditioners.

Condensing Coils

Think of the condensing coils as the outdoor version of the evaporator coils. As the liquid refrigerant moves from the compressor to the condenser, it will lose the heat it receives from your indoor space to the outside through the compressor.  

After the evaporator cools down, it will return to the evaporator coil.

The Fan

The outdoor unit in every air conditioner contains a fan. The main job of the fan is to draw heat away from the outdoor unit. If there’s no way to extract the heat from the refrigerant to the evaporator coils, your air conditioner may overheat.

The Air Filter

The air filter in the air conditioner is not as important as the others on this list because the unit can work without it.

However, the indoor air quality around your home will decline sharply after a few days without it. The air filter removes or limits the quantity of airborne contaminants within your space.

As such, you need an efficient air filter if you want to avoid inhaling allergens with every breath as your air conditioner works.

The Thermostat

The thermostat may not look like much, but it’s one of the most important parts of an air conditioning system. The thermostat is where you communicate your desired indoor temperature to the air conditioning unit.

Most thermostats feature built-in humidity and temperature sensors. Thus, they can read the temperature within your home to kickstart or turn off the air conditioner where necessary.

Thermostats have come a long way in the past few years. The smart variants allow you to control your air conditioner from your phone. After the first few weeks, the thermostat can learn your usage patterns and make adjustments on its own.

The Refrigerant

As you’ve seen above, there’s no cooling without the refrigerant. It’s the refrigerant that absorbs heat and moves it outside using the coils as a conduit. Unlike the other components on this list, you can’t see this one. It’s a chemical that runs within your air conditioner’s evaporator and condenser coils.

R-22 (commercial name Freon) was the refrigerant of choice in air conditioners for a long time. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has since banned it due to its harmful impact on the ozone. Modern air conditioners now contain refrigerants that are safer for the environment, like R-410A.

Caring for the Most Important Parts of Your Air Conditioner

Implementing the following tips can help keep your air conditioner’s most important parts working efficiently:

  • Keep the coils clean: Your evaporator and condenser coils accumulate a lot of dirt and dust over time, reducing their ability to perform the all-important task of removing heat from your home. Cleaning the coils at least once a year can keep them working at optimum capacity.
  • Check for refrigerant leaks: Do you hear hissing noises while your air conditioner is in operation? That’s a classic sign of refrigerant leaks. Request inspection and repairs the first time you hear the noise to prevent costlier breakdown.
  • Watch for changes in the cooling pattern: If you notice any drop in your air conditioner’s cooling performance, call our team for a thorough inspection as soon as possible. It’s the best way to prevent more serious damage and avoid costly repairs or, worse, early replacement.

Contact Reliable Heating & Cooling for Further Questions Regarding Your Air Conditioner

With this understanding of the most important parts of an air conditioner, you can make more informed decisions about your unit. You can also understand the importance of regular AC maintenance. Additionally, you can now judge the severity of any air conditioner issues better.

Do you have any further questions about your air conditioner’s operations? Would you learn more about how your air conditioner works? Contact us at Reliable Heating & Cooling today at (616) 201-3513 to schedule an appointment.

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