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What would people do without air conditioning in those hot July and August months? Research done by the Research Energy Consumption Survey in 2009 showed that nearly 87 percent of American homes have air conditioning. It’s one of the miraculous luxuries that people associate with living in modern times. Technology has brought about many improvements to life, but sometimes people wonder how these inventions work.

An air conditioner is similar to a refrigerator, as both appliances use a liquid called a refrigerant to cool the air. The air conditioner pulls heat and moisture out of the home, then blows cool, dry conditioned air back into the home.

Air conditioners use a scientific principle called phase conversion. As you may remember from elementary school science class, matter can exist in various phases such as solid, liquid and gas. For example, when water is heated to a high enough temperature, it turns into steam. When a liquid becomes a gas, it absorbs heat. If air is used as the heat source, the phase change from liquid to gas pulls heat out of the air.

The air conditioner cools the air by sucking it in with a fan and blowing it over coils that contain cold refrigerant. The refrigerant is a special kind of liquid that evaporates at relatively low temperatures. When the refrigerant inside the coils turns from a liquid to a gas, it pulls heat out of the air. These refrigerant-filled coils are called evaporator coils.

When the warm humid air from inside the house contacts the evaporator coils, the moisture condenses on the coils, then it is collected and expelled outside, which reduces the humidity inside the home.

In order for the air conditioner to continue cooling the room, the refrigerant has to be converted back into a liquid so that the process can be repeated. Therefore, the refrigerant in its gaseous state is pumped into the second set of coils called the condenser coils, which use pressure to condense the gas back into liquid. This process produces heat, which is expelled outside by another fan.

This process is constantly repeated, which continuously pulls heat and humidity out of the home. With enough refrigerant and air flow, the temperature can be lowered considerably and maintained by the air conditioner. The sensors and controls on your air conditioning system regulate the process and keep your home at the temperature that you desire.

About the author: Leland is a guest contributor from North Winds Heating & Cooling, an HVAC company in Lansing, Michigan that can get your home air conditioning system ready for summer.

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