How does air conditioner works? Any idea? We have learned how cooling happens. But here we are going to learn how air is cooled and how heat transfer is happening in air conditioning machines? Our room becomes comfortable due to air conditioner units although outside is very hot. We will see how air conditioner works in this chapter with detailed functions of parts of air conditioners.
In this session, we will learn how does air conditioner works. When we feel uncomfortable due to high ambient temperature, what will we do? We simply switched on our air conditioning remote and get the cold air. Now, have you thought about it? Why does cooling happen?
Let’s try to understand the cooling process with a simple explanation.
If you take a small amount of medicated spirit, you will see your palm will get cooled. How it is cooled,
All air conditioners work based on refrigeration cycles. We have already learned the vapour compression cycle or vapour absorption cycles. In this lesson, we will consider the vapour compression system which is widely used in various industries.
Refrigerant circulates through evaporator, compressor, condenser, expansion valve and continues this cycle.
Now, we will see how a simple air conditioner works in our house to have a practical understanding. Let’s try to understand the different parts of air conditioners and what are the functions of each part.
There are four (4) major components in air conditioners:
Along with the main components, all other parts of air conditioners are
The evaporator is a cooling coil and acts as a heat exchanger in the AC system. The main functions are :
It is placed in the indoor unit. The indoor unit is located inside the room which needs to be air-conditioned. This coil is having fins to increase the surface area. Surrounding air will lose heat and becoming cool.
This cool air will then to be circulated by blower to the space to be conditioned. This blower or fan is known as evaporator fan. Don’t be confused between blower and fans, we will learn the difference between blower and fan later on.
Air Distribution Scheme will be as below:
A compressor is the most important part and it is called the heart of the air conditioning system. The main functions of the compressor are:
Due to the difference of pressure & temperature, phase changes from liquid refrigerant to vapour refrigerant will be faster.
Then, the compressor raises the pressure of the refrigerant to which it can be condensed to by rejecting heat to one heat exchanger i.e. condenser.
The condenser is simply a heat exchanger where gasses changed into a liquid. Refrigerant undergoes a phase change in the condenser.
The expansion valve is located between the condenser and evaporator. The main function shall be as follows,
A blower is used in the air conditioners, to circulate the air. The blower continues to flow the air as we as it sucks the hot air too and maintaining proper air circulation.
Condenser releases the heat from the condenser coils. Now, condenser fans are necessary to increase the rate of cooling and boost the system.
Due to the dust particles or other pollutants, it is very much necessary to filtrate the air before we breathe or use.
Remember filter cleaning is necessary to increase the efficiency as well as the indoor air quality.
In the air conditioning system, various kinds of filters are used to filtrate the air. Filters maybe
Refrigerant is the main working fluid in the air conditioning system. It changes it’s phase very quick. Normally, the following refrigerants are widely used:
Refrigerant is chosen in such a way that it will not affect the environment, like less ozone depletion potential and less global warming potentials.
The electrical motors for evaporator fans, condenser fans, compressors are required.
Monitoring and controlling air temperature in air conditioning is necessary and it is done by a thermostat.
The thermostat senses the temperature of the conditioned space and turns the blower on or off based on the cooling requirements.
Piping, cabling, etc. are required to complete the air conditioning system.
Step#1: Heat absorbed in the evaporator.
At normal pressure and temperature, refrigerant starts evaporating in the evaporator coil and latent heat of evaporation takes adjacent surface or adjacent areas or surrounding air.
Air is becoming cool by releasing heat and refrigerant becomes heated by taking heat.
Step#2: Compressor increases pressure & temperature
When the compressor starts rotating, there will be a negative pressure and refrigerant vapour is forced to enter the compressor. Once refrigerant vapour enters, the compressor compresses the gas and its pressure and temperature increases.
Step#3: Heat removal in the condenser
High pressure and high-temperature refrigerant vapour then pass through condenser. Here, the refrigerant vapour is changed into liquid and release heat into the atmosphere.
Step#4: Flow control
After heat removal, the refrigerant enters into the expansion valve. This expansion valve throttles and control the flow and send the refrigerant to the evaporator.
This process continues and, in this way, the air conditioner works.
It’s a very easy process and explained in a very simple way with relevant images to understand better in a step by step.
Refrigerant is pumped through tubing in the circuit to start the refrigeration process.
This refrigerant is cold and starts changing its phase in normal conditions.
In Evaporator, Refrigerant takes heat from adjacent air and starts evaporating at normal pressure & temperature and change its phase from liquid to vapour.
Compressor creates a low pressure at the inlet and maintain a constant flow in the circuit and compress the refrigerant vapour as well as increases its pressure and temperature.
After compressor refrigerant vapour moves to the condenser coil and releases heat to the atmosphere.
The vapour travels to a compressor that pressurizes it and moves it through the condenser coil, where it releaes heat, which is expelled outside.
The refrigerant then moves through an expansion valve which converts it to a low-pressure and maintains required flow in the circuit.
This cycle works continuously in all air conditioner units
A blower circulates air through the coil and air gets cooled. Cool air gets hot in the room, goes upside and sucked by blower and again it goes through the evaporator coil, get cooled and repeat the process.
We have explained how does air conditioner works in step by step. Now, the same working principle can be described in simple animation also, to understand the process visually.
Learn Engineering has created a very nice representation of How Air Conditioner Works. Check it out!
There is various type of air conditioners, from simple system to complex air conditioning system. These all are used based on the industry requirements, for example
The basic working procedure is explained in very brief to get basic knowledge. Let’s start with split air conditioners!
A split air conditioner consists of two units, indoor unit and outdoor unit and it is normally used in residential applications, small scale industrial applications.
The indoor unit is located inside the room which needs to be air-conditioned and it consists of filters, cooling coils i. e., evaporator, expansion valve and a blower. The refrigerant evaporates and absorbs heat from the room air. Room air becomes cold by losing heat and circulate by a blower into the room.
After absorbing heat, the refrigerant will go to an outdoor unit for releasing heat into the atmosphere. Inside air will be recirculating and again will pass through the evaporator and maintain constant cooling inside the room.
The outdoor unit is located outside the room to release the heat. It consists of compressor, condenser coil and condenser fans. The heat absorbed by refrigerant from the indoor unit (evaporator coil) will reach to the compressor in the outdoor unit
The compressor, heart of air conditioning system, circulates the refrigerant throughout the system. The compression of refrigerant happens in the compressor and pressure, the temperature of the refrigerant is increased. High pressure and temperature refrigerant then moved to the condenser coil i.e., condenser. As the refrigerant passes through the condenser coil, condensing fans delivers ambient air across the condenser coil and cool the refrigerant and it again comes back to evaporator coil through an expansion valve.
In this process, the heat from the inside area will be removed to the atmosphere.
Normally split air conditioners are available as;
These type of split air conditioners are known as Hi-Wall Split Air Conditioners since it is wall mounted. However, there are many other different kinds of split air conditioners available with varying capacity now a day in the market, like
The name packaged air conditioners itself implies a package, where indoor and outdoor units are located in one unit only. In each package air conditioner, one side consists of evaporator fan, evaporator coils and another side consists of compressors, condenser coils, condenser fans etc. In medium-capacity requirement mainly in industrial applications or commercial applications, packaged air conditioners are widely used.
Refer a simple image for packaged air conditioners, to get a basic idea.
In the case of large scale application like industrial or commercial applications, the chilled water system is used. Mainly high capacity requirements or varying demands application chilled water system is the best choice. In a chilled water system, the main refrigeration cycle is same with split air conditioners or packaged air conditioners. However, there is a chiller which is nothing but evaporator as well as the compressor, condenser assembly. Due to its large capacity, the design of chiller is different from other air conditioners.
Basics of the chilled water system are,
A simple chilled water system is indicated in a diagram for getting an idea.
So, we have learned how does different air conditioner works, along with a few practical examples. Any doubt, don’t hesitate to write to us! Anyways, try to solve the quizzes to test the core of learning! Cheers!
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