A central air conditioner has many mechanical components, but the crucial element in its ability to cool is the refrigerant it contains. Refrigerants are chemical compounds called hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC), and R-410A is the one now used in new cooling systems.
The Role of Refrigerants in Home Air Conditioners
Refrigerant doesn’t make cold air — it’s used to draw heat out of the air inside your home and release it outside. In order to transfer heat, it has to be converted from a gas into a liquid and back. This transformation takes place inside the air conditioner in a closed circuit of metal tubing that connects four components — the compressor, condenser, expansion valve and evaporator.
When the thermostat calls for cooling and the A/C cycles on, here’s the route the refrigerant takes through the circuit:
- First, it flows as a low-pressure gas into the outdoor compressor, which compresses and heats it so it exits as a high-pressure gas.
- From there it moves along to the condenser where it converts to liquid form and releases heat in the process. The condenser is a copper coil equipped with metal fins to boost its surface area and make heat transfer more efficient. A fan positioned above it helps heat dissipate faster.
- Now a high-pressure liquid, it moves indoors and enters the expansion valve, where the flow gets restricted to reduce pressure and cool it down rapidly.
- The cool, low-pressure liquid travels along to the evaporator, which is another metal-finned copper coil. Here, it absorbs heat from the air as it transforms back into a gas. The blower fan sitting just above helps move warm air across the coil, and pushes newly-cooled air into the duct system.
- Now laden with heat, the low-pressure gas moves outdoors again to the compressor, and the cooling cycle repeats until the thermostat’s target temperature is reached.
- Too little or too much refrigerant due to under/over charging or leaks can impact an A/Cs ability to cool or even harm key system components.
To learn more about the refrigerant that keeps your Orlando home cool and comfortable, contact Rinaldi’s Energy Solutions.
Our goal is to help educate our customers in Orlando, Florida and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).
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