Flo-Aire Heating, Cooling & Electrical

Air Conditioning 101: How Do They Work?

Air Conditioning 101: How Do They Work?

We all love our air conditioners. Without them, the world would be a much sweatier and less comfortable place. Since the first modern air conditioning system was invented by Willis Carrier in 1902, the useful appliances have been allowing us to effectively control our indoor temperatures while the sun blazes outside. You’ve undoubtedly been glad to have AC many times in your life, but have you ever wondered how your air conditioner works? Below, we’ll cover the ins and outs of how these cooling systems are able to keep our homes and businesses so refreshingly cool.
Air conditioner unit on cement with brown brick siding and a electrical box

Table of Contents -

The Role of Refrigerants

When it comes to air conditioners, refrigerants are really the unsung hero of the cooling process. These chemicals have the unusual ability of easily converting back and forth from a liquid to a gas, and that ability is integral to the way your AC unit works. When the refrigerants are in a liquid state, they absorb heat, which causes the liquid to transform into a gas. Then, when the air conditioner converts that gas back into a liquid, the heat that the refrigerants absorbed gets expelled from your house. Essentially, cooling down your home or business comes down to removing the heat from the air, and without refrigerants, that wouldn’t be possible. Once the gas has been transformed back into a liquid, the process is repeated all over again.

The Three Main A/C Components

Although your air conditioner is made up of more than three parts, there are three primary components that have the most important roles. Those components are the compressor, the condenser, and the evaporator coil.


As you may be aware, a major part of your air conditioner is the outdoor unit, which contains both the compressor and condenser, as well as a fan. The AC unit’s refrigerants enter the compressor in a gaseous state containing heat that was pulled from inside your home. The compressor then squeezes the gas, which compresses the molecules and further raises its temperature. So, when the refrigerant gas flows back out of the compressor, it’s actually even hotter than it was when it entered, and that’s crucial for the next part of the process.


Once the hot refrigerant gas exits the compressor, it flows into the condenser and moves through its coils. Then, the outdoor unit’s fan pulls air from outside and blows it onto the hot condenser coils, which causes the heat from the refrigerants to transfer from the gas into the outdoor air. As all that heat is removed from the gas, the gas cools and is converted back into its liquid state.

Evaporator Coil

In addition to an outdoor unit, your air conditioner also has an air handler, which is located inside the house. The air handler, which is typically a large metal box, contains the evaporator coil and a blower. After the refrigerants have been converted back into a cool liquid, it gets pulled back inside your home and into the evaporator coil, where it gets cooled down even further. Next, the unit’s blower pulls air from inside your house and blows it over the cold coil. Doing so cools the air down considerably, and if you have a central air system, that cool air is then distributed around your household through the connected ventilation ducts. And, because the refrigerant liquid will have absorbed the warmth from your household air during the cooling process, it will evaporate into a gaseous state once again and move back to the outdoor unit. From that point, the process starts all over again to continue cooling your home as necessary.

How Does an A/C Unit Clean Your Air?

Keeping your home or business nice and cool isn’t the only function of your air conditioner. When it’s running, it also has the important task of keeping your indoor air as clean and healthy as possible. So, how does it achieve this?

When your thermostat notices that the temperature is too warm, it communicates with your air conditioner to begin the cooling process. At that point, a fan pulls warm air into your air ducts, and before the air can reach the point of being cooled down, it must first pass through a filter. The air filter traps the airborne contaminants, such as dirt, dust, pollen, dander, and mold spores. Then, when that air goes through the cooling process outlined above, the vast majority of the pollutants have been removed, so the refreshing air that eventually circulates around the property is smooth and clean.

3 Types of Air Conditioners

There are three primary types of air conditioners, and although the basics of the cooling process remain the same, there are some key differences.

  • Central Air – Central air AC units are the most popular type of air conditioner, and they’re typically the ideal choice for larger homes and big families. These systems are connected to the ductwork and distribute cool air evenly throughout the entire home. Central air units work in conjunction with existing furnace systems, so if you already have a ductwork setup, there’s no need to install a new one.
  • Ductless Mini-Splits – Ductless mini-split air conditioners work just like central air units, but with one major difference: They don’t use ducts. Just like central air systems, ductless air conditioners feature indoor and outdoor units. However, since there are no ducts, you have to install an indoor unit in each room that you want to cool down. Ductless mini-split systems are a popular choice for smaller homes, which don’t always have room for ductwork. They also tend to be more energy-efficient than central air systems.
  • Heat Pumps – Heat pumps are unique for the fact that they’re capable of both heating and cooling effectively. These systems can be gas-powered, electric, or dual-fuel, and they’re known for their exceptional energy efficiency. To provide warmth, heat pumps pull heat from outside, and they can simply reverse the process to cool your home down. Heat pumps are excellent systems for mild climates, but in areas that regularly experience extreme cold, they aren’t usually the best option.

Reliable Heating & Cooling Professionals

Hopefully, you now have a solid understanding of air conditioners and how they work. If you have any other AC-related questions or need any type of air conditioning service, you can always contact Flo-Aire. Whether you need AC maintenance, repairs, or installation, you’ll receive high-quality work and superlative customer service, all at a reasonable price.


Flo-Aire Heating, Cooling & Electrical, Inc.

Flo-Aire Heating, Cooling & Electrical, Inc.

Locally owned and operated in Southgate, MI since 1955, Flo-Aire Heating, Cooling & Electrical is one of the top heating & cooling companies in Southeast Michigan. Flo-Aire provides residential, commercial and industrial HVAC services throughout all of Metro Detroit.


Signup for Offers

Scroll to Top