Anatomy of a Central AC Unit

How your residential air conditioning system works

anatomy of a central air conditioner for home

The ideal air conditioner should fly under the radar. You want the unit to kick in when necessary without much of a fuss. As long as things are going well, you don’t need to familiarize yourself with your air conditioner.

However, keeping up with basic routine maintenance can save you lots of money in the long run. If you need to repair or service your central AC system, understanding the different parts and their function is important.

In this article, we will go over the anatomy of a central AC unit and explain how air conditioning works.

How Central Air Conditioning Works

An air conditioning unit uses electricity to cool your home. Inside each AC unit is a refrigerant. This refrigerant courses through coolant lines that go from the exterior unit to the indoor system. Warm air inside your home or building is drawn into air ducts by a fan system.

The coolant is then moved from an exterior compressor to an interior evaporator coil system. The warm air is cooled by this system and then pumped back into the building. This cycle happens over and over until the thermostat reads that the interior has reached the desired level of coolness.

To some it seems like magic that air conditioning is effective because of basic refrigeration principles. However, every AC system has the same three basic parts:

• An evaporator unit
• A condenser
• A compressor

Split Central AC Systems

Most homes have a split system where both the compressor and the condenser are located in an outdoor casing. The evaporator in this system is placed inside of a forced air system.

In a split system, the refrigerant is pumped through copper pipes that encircle the main components of the air conditioner. The refrigerant absorbs the heat that’s given off by the warm air. The air changes the refrigerant from liquid to gas and then liquid again. This cycle cools down the air before it’s pumped back into your home. The indoor coil is the main source of cooling since the refrigerant is coolest at that moment.

When the motorized fan blows the warm air around the inner coil, the refrigerant sucks up the heat and then turns into vapor. Once it’s in this gaseous form, it goes into a compressor that moves it into the outdoor part of the coil. This releases the heat into the outside air. After the air is expelled the refrigerant goes back into the expansion device and turns into liquid, continuing the cycle.

Packaged Central AC Systems

Some houses have what’s known as a packaged AC system which is when the condenser, compressor, and evaporator are all housed in the same casing. These tend to be located outdoors on the roof of a building or attached to the outside walls. Split systems are generally cheaper for most residential situations.

Atlanta, GA Central Heat & Air Conditioning Services

There are many different types of air conditioners out there—from industrial size HVAC behemoths to the small window units that cool down apartment buildings. However, they all work on the same basic principles. The key to remember is that the refrigerant, coil, and fan systems all work in unison to cool your home.

If you have issues with your AC, it’s best to call a professional due to the fact that there are many caustic chemicals involved with air conditioning—not to mention all kinds of interconnected ductwork throughout your home or business.

For residents of Atlanta or Alpharetta, contact Gagne Heating & Air Conditioning for expert repairs, maintenance, and AC installation. As a family owned and operated business with 20+ years of experience, we can dissect your air conditioning system to diagnose small problems before they become major expenses. Schedule a service appointment today.

Request an Estimate
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.