How Does A/C Work?

How Does A/C Work?

We take technology for granted, never asking questions such as “How does A/C work?” We enjoy the comfort and coolness without taking the time to understand the process. When we don’t know how something works, it’s harder to spot when things go wrong. We can all benefit from having a basic understanding of how air conditioning works.

Air conditioning is the process of changing the air qualities of a space. While it generally is used when talking about cooling a home, it also can mean removing impurities from the air, dehumidifying, or other things. When you have a basic understanding of how A/C does work, then you can better maintain and utilize your air conditioning system.

How Does A/C Work – More Than The Sum of The Parts

Every air conditioner is going to have certain basic components. The compressor acts as a pump to move the refrigerant through the system. An evaporator coil and condenser coil are the medium through which the hot or cold air travels. While the details of different air conditioning units are unique, they will all have some variation on these parts. Understanding how the A/C parts work is the first step to knowing your system.


The condenser coil, or outdoor coil, is located on the outside of the system. While the system is cooling the interior of your home, this component is releasing hot air outside. You may have noticed hot air coming from the grill of your refrigerator, usually located under the doors. The A/C condenser coil works the same way.

Evaporator Coil

The evaporator coil is also called the indoor coil. As refrigerant moves through these tubes, warm air is drawn in and cool air results. The compressor works to move air through the piping, transferring hot air from the indoors out and replacing it with cooler air.

Combination Systems

While some homes have separate heating and cooling systems, it is far more common to have a single HVAC unit. In combination systems, the heat pump warms the home by essentially reversing the process. These systems are sometimes called reverse cycle units. When heating, you can feel cold air instead of hot being released outdoors.

How Does A/C Work – Knowledge is Power

Of course, you asked “How Does A/C work?” for a reason. You want to be able to maintain your system properly. Keeping the unit clean and maintained can help if have a longer life, keep your home more comfortable, and run more energy efficiently. Now that you understand the basic parts and processes involved, you can take the next step.

Outdoor Components

You should start with the outdoor components. The outdoor coil and compressor are located outside, usually close to an outer wall of the home. Be sure to take the indicated safety precautions. Like any machine, moving parts can be dangerous. With any electrical system there is a risk if you forget to follow safety instructions.

Owner’s Manual

Take some time to inspect your owner’s manual. Familiarize yourself with the suggested maintenance, locations of parts, and other information about your system. Knowing how A/C works does help you to find the important information.

Safety & Maintenance

You will need to gather safety and maintenance supplies. Gloves and eye protection will protect you from debris, sharp surfaces, and chemicals. If your unit’s motor requires lubrication you may need motor oil. A garden hose and air conditioner cleaner, available at an HVAC supplier, are also needed. Once you have gathered these you should shut off power to the unit and then remove the cover.


Lubricate the motor via the lubrication ports. Your owner’s manual will tell you where the ports are located and what kind of lubricant to use. You generally will only need a few drops in each port. Inspect the unit for stains on and around it. Stains may indicate a leak which requires a professional HVAC Service Morristown TN.

Clean The Blades

Clean the fan blades of any dirt and debris. Spray the coils with the air conditioner cleaner, using the gloves and eye protection. Let the cleaner sit according to the products directions before using the garden hose to rinse it off.

Indoor Unit Cleaning

To clean the indoor unit, you again must make sure that you have turned off the power. The evaporator coil is often hard to reach. If you can access it, use a vacuum to clean the fins. Replace the filter as needed. Your manual will tell you what type of filter you need.

Maintenance Pays Off

The next time someone asks “How Does A/C work?” not only will you be able to answer their questions, but you will be able to help them with maintaining their system. Careful maintenance performed by yourself can extend the life of your system and save you significant amounts of money over time.

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