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The Basics of Refrigerant

The Basics of Refrigerant

Many homeowners take for granted their residence's heating and cooling systems without having more than a basic idea of how they work. While a gas furnace is relatively easy to understand, systems that rely upon the refrigeration process are more complicated. Yet, understanding how your air conditioner or heat pump works to condition your home will help you troubleshoot problems in the future.

How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

It's incorrect to think that an A/C cools the outside air, then draws it into the house. Air conditioners (and the cooling mode of heat pumps) actually extract heat energy from inside air, with the removal of heat resulting in cooler air. Refrigerant, a chemical formula also referred to as coolant, does the actual work of taking heat from the air, and then expelling that heat into the outside air. The ability of coolant to easily transition between a liquid and gas drives the refrigeration process.

In the most common type of air conditioner, the split system, a compressor pumps a refrigerant solution into the home, where it runs through copper coils in the air handler/evaporator unit. An expansion valve eases pressure on the liquid refrigerant, allowing it to evaporate and convert into a gas. The liquid-to-gas conversion extracts heat from air that's being blown across the evaporator coil, reducing the air temperature. A fan in the air handler (or furnace) then circulates the conditioned air throughout the house. Eventually, it's drawn back into the inside A/C unit to be cooled again.

The refrigerant, in a gaseous state, is then pumped outside to the condenser/compressor unit, where the gas is compressed and changes back to a liquid. As this happens, the stored heat in the refrigerant is released into air as it's blown across the condenser coil, and then dissipates into the outside environment. The coolant, returned to liquid stage, flows back into the house, and the process repeats.

To learn more about how your A/C or heat pump brings comfort to your Broken Arrow area home, please contact us at Air Assurance.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Tulsa and Broken Arrow, Oklahoma area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). Credit/Copyright Attribution: “Alhovik/Shutterstock”