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How Your Air Conditioner Does Its Job


During the summer, most people have one shared goal: find a way to stay cool. As the temperatures slowly climb into the 90’s (as they do every year), we become more and more reliant on our home’s air conditioner to do its job and keep us cool. But, how many of us know how this “miracle machine” actually works? As always, Hutchinson HVAC is here to help!

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  • Air Conditioners don’t cool your home
    • It may sound silly, but an air conditioner doesn’t actually cool your home. It actually removes heat in a very delicate process, and it requires all four components of the air conditioning system to be in sync.
    • Want to test this theory? When your air conditioner is operating, walk outside and place your hand over its top. Feel the heat? That is literally the heat that was just inside your home, and so, as a byproduct of removing heat, your home becomes cooler.


  • The Four Parts of an Air Conditioner
    • Outside condenser – The “heart” of the system. This is the piece most of us are familiar with as they tend to be noisy and an eyesore in our yards. This is where the heat of your home is dissipated so that your home can cool. Inside the condenser is the “compressor;” this is the part of the air conditioning system which moves the refrigerant allowing the home to remove heat.
    • Inside coil – Typically overlooked in the whole process is your AC’s coil. It tends to sit on top of the furnace and has few, to no, moving parts but, rather, just a series of copper tubes. However, this is where all of your home’s heat is collected in order to be removed. Keeping your coil clean of dust, dirt, debris, and any bacterial growth is of prime importance.
    • Line set – Two more copper tubes which connect the inside coil to the outside condenser: completing a circular loop. Inside the line set is refrigerant, which starts in the coil collecting heat, then flows thru ½ of the line set into the outdoor condenser releasing heat, and then the refrigerant flows thru the other ½ of the line set back to the inside coil – and the process begins again!
    • Inside fan – All of that cool air needs to get in your home, and so you need a fan to blow the air. Typically found inside of the furnace, the fan is shared between your two systems but the fan speed, like Goldilocks, needs to be just right. If you blow too much air, then your home won’t cool. Blow too little, and your coil may “freeze” turning into a giant block of ice.


  • Dehumidification
    • It is called an “air conditioner,” not an “air cooler,” for a reason: cooling your home just isn’t enough to stay comfortable this summer; you have to remove the humidity. A properly sized and functioning air conditioner should act as your home’s dehumidifier. By removing the heat from your home, your air conditioner forces the humidity in the air to condense from vapor to liquid. If it is properly-sized, your home will be cool but feel “muggy” and uncomfortable.


  • Staging
    • One of the newer technologies available has allowed air conditioners to reach higher levels of efficiency and performance which had previously been unattainable. Staging, simply put, is similar to gears on a bicycle—they allow the air conditioner to “gear up” or “gear down” in order to supply your home with the exact amount of heat removal you need. Beyond higher efficiencies and greater performance, staged air conditioners also allow for greater dehumidification in your home by continually adjusting their cooling capacity as each day warms and cools.


Understanding how your air conditioner works will help to get you to get the most out of your home’s cooling system and keep your family comfortable this summer!  Enjoy!