Components of Central Air Conditioning
What Are the Components of a Central Air Conditioning System
Most people take for granted the central air conditioning system in their home or business. That is, until it breaks down.
Of course most people know a few of the components associated with central air conditioning, the box in the yard, the filter that need to be changed. They know it is connected to the furnace and duct-work in some way but mostly it is just a mysterious conglomeration of components that are unseen and not much thought is given to it.
There are, however, many components involved with this system – mechanical components, electrical components, fluids and of course the physics behind it all.
HVAC (Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning) is related to the field of mechanical engineering. The HVAC Technicians, as they are called, have specialized training in these three areas. Although, the principles of refrigeration are fairly easy to understand, it should be noted that there are many hazards (both personal and environmental) that can occur if not done properly. Air Conditioner service, repair and installation should be left to a state licensed professional in the HVAC field.
The home or business owner should change the air filter monthly and schedule regular preventive maintenance.
But, what are the components of a central air conditioning system? We should think of a properly working system as an efficient group of elements working in unison to provide the desired air temperature and air cleanliness in you home or business.
These components include, but are not limited to, cooling coils(also called an evaporator), a compressor, condenser and associated support hardware (such as thermostats, blower motor, duct-works, etc.).
These terms, and many others, are defined elsewhere on this website, but, here is a brief description of these few components of a central air conditioning system.
One key point to remember is that air conditioners transfer heat between the air outside the system to a fluid inside the system.
The compressor and the condenser, in a home system, are located outside the house in a box that has a fan. The evaporator is on the inside of the house and is usually connected to (inside of) the central heating unit. Likewise the air ducts, blower motor,thermostats, etc.are also inside the house.
The evaporator is on what is called the cold side of the air conditioner. As the refrigeration liquid passes into the evaporator it turns (evaporates) into a gas. As it turns into a gas, it extracts heat from the surrounding air via metal fins (like the radiator in your car). The fins present a greater surface area to help transfer the thermal energy.
The blower motor pushes air through the fins of the evaporator and through the air ducts of the home to aid of this process of transferring heat.
The compressor (outside the house) takes the cool, low pressure gas that has come from the evaporator inside the house and squeezes it, i.e., pressurizes it, then sends this hot high pressure gas to the condenser unit which transfers the heat to the outside air with the aid of the fan.The condenser has fins, much like the evaporator. The function of these two components are similar but opposite – one cooling the surrounding air indoor air and the other casting off the heat out of doors.
Most everyone is familiar with the thermostat and its operation. The thermostat is the “traffic cop” of the whole system. It is the “user interface” that lets you specify the indoor temperature. It also gives you a reading of the current indoor air temp. In the past these were touchy devices but the newer digital models are very stable and consistent in their control of the cooling system.
DANGER: Attempting to repair your own system could result in harm to you and the environment. HIGH Pressure and hot liquids can be very hazardous if a leak is caused. Always consult a HVAC professional for anything more involved than changing the air filter, adjusting the thermostat, or vacuuming grass clippings off the outside condenser unit.
Change the air filter monthly! This one task can save you a lot of money on your electric bill and extend the life of your air conditioning system for many years, not to mention sparing you many costly repairs.
The central air conditioner also provides the useful purpose of cleaning the air. That air filter I was just talking about helps remove large amounts of pollen and other pollutants. If you or anyone in your family suffers from allergies, a GOOD air filter is a must. Do not scrimp on this component of your air conditioning system. If you feel the special filters approved by the American Lung Association are too costly, try shopping at discount stores or online. It can really make a huge difference in your quality of life.
A Word about Central Air Conditioners vs Window Units
The central air conditioner not only provides the function of cooling the indoor air, but also circulates, cleans, dehumidifies or, in some cases, humidifies the air too.
The central air conditioner can help control the pollen and other pollutants in your home more easily than window units. This is because there is but one air intake point, and that makes filtering much easier. My wife has allergies so we use special filters that are approved by the American Lung Association. If you have allergies (or anyone in your family does) I recommend this type of filter. They really make a difference. If cost is a factor, you can find cheaper prices by shopping for them in discount stores or even on the Internet.
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