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What Are the Major Parts of an Air Conditioner?

Close up of air conditioner

You know you are having a problem with your air conditioner, but you likely do not know how to describe the problem to a repair tech. Be sure to mention any strange sounds or smells coming from your system. However, knowing the parts of the system can help accelerate finding and fixing the problem.

You likely are already feeling significant stress around the problem, as most people do. This stress comes from a fear of expensive repairs and is rooted in not understanding how the system works. Take a few minutes, learn the basics of your system, and reduce your stress as you solve this problem.

How Does Your Air Conditioner Work?

The first part of reducing the stress of your system not working is understanding the basics of how it operates. Many You can troubleshoot many problems with this basic knowledge. Your system has two primary functions: circulating and regulating the pressure of your refrigerant.

Your system draws air in through the air intake vent and removes contaminants with the air filter. It then cools the air and pushes it back out into your house. The cooling effect is accomplished using the refrigerant in the system.

This refrigerant does not actually add cold to your air. Rather, it absorbs heat from the air and transfers it to the air outside your home. The system accomplishes this by changing the pressure of the refrigerant.

When you increase the pressure of the refrigerant, you increase the heat. When you decrease it, you reduce the heat. As the refrigerant moves inside your house, the pressure drops dramatically, making it cold enough to easily absorb heat from the air.

When the refrigerant moves outside, the pressure increases significantly, raising the temperature. This increase allows it to more effectively release the heat while it is outside.

General Signs There Is a Problem

Whenever there is a problem with your air conditioner, there are several symptoms you may notice. These are the first clue most people will notice that something is wrong. With a little investigation, you will probably find some additional clues of the specific problems.

One of the first things many people complain of is that the air is not cold enough. You may feel air coming from your vents, but it is barely cooler than the room temperature, or may even feel warm.

In some cases, you may notice the system running but barely feel any air coming from your vents. This is known as an airflow restriction and may be caused by more than something physically blocking your ductwork.

In many cases, you may notice an increase in the humidity in your home. This is a sure sign the air conditioner is not working properly, and it usually accompanies a lack of cooling.

If the problem has been going undetected for a while, you may notice an increase in your energy bills. This is caused by your system running less efficiently, leading to longer cycles.

Condensing and Evaporator Coils

Your system has two coils in it your refrigerant runs through, the condensing and evaporator coils. Both of these have the job of transferring heat, allowing your system to work properly.

The evaporator coil is usually with your air handler or contained in the furnace housing. Right before the refrigerant enters the evaporator coil, it goes through an expansion valve. This restricts the amount of refrigerant flowing into the coil, dropping the pressure and making it extremely cold. Air then flows over the coils, and the refrigerant absorbs the heat from the air because of the temperature differential.

When the refrigerant travels outside, it goes to the condensing coils to transfer the heat to the outside air. As the refrigerant heads to this coil, the pressure is increased to intensify the heat it absorbed from inside. This allows it to easily transfer that heat to the outside air.

In either of these coils, two things typically happen. First, they get dirty from the air flowing through them, so they need to be cleaned regularly.

They can also be damaged, which can cause a refrigerant leak. If you turn your system on and hear a screaming sound, you likely have a leak. Turn the system off, and call for a repair technician.

A system that tries to run without the proper refrigerant pressure can damage your compressor, causing more repairs. If the leak is inside, the refrigerant can be hazardous to those who breathe it in.

Condensing and Blower Fans

Your air conditioner has two fans that are responsible for circulating air. The blower fan, also called the circulating fan, is inside. This is what pulls air in, and draws it through the evaporator coil, and pushes it back out.

Outside in the condensing unit is the condensing fan. This draws air from outside the unit through the condensing coils, then vents it out through the top of the unit.

If either of these fails, your system will fail to run well. Aside from the symptoms already described, you may notice a rattling or squealing sound. Both motors can be easily replaced if needed and caught early.

Air Conditioning Compressor

The compressor sits inside the condensing unit and is the part responsible for increasing the refrigerant pressure. This can easily become damaged if the system does not have enough refrigerant, or if the system short cycles.

When this part goes bad, you will certainly notice some or all of the common symptoms. You may also notice a growling, rattling, or screeching sound coming from the condensing unit outside. This can also cause your system to trip the circuit breaker.

Being this component is part of the refrigerant line, a technician will have to evacuate and capture the refrigerant to work on the part. Because of the time needed and having to recharge the system, you may consider replacing the condensing unit or your entire air conditioner. Your technician will consider the system’s age and condition in making recommendations.

Control Components

Your condensing unit also has two primary electrical control components that may fail. Both of these components are relatively simple fixes and inexpensive parts. Caution must be exercised when replacing them to prevent a dangerous electrical shock.

The contactor is a switch that is controlled by the thermostat inside. If this goes bad, it may not keep your system running, fail to run, or cause the system to turn off and on very rapidly. A chattering sound will usually accompany the latter.

The capacitor is also a critical component of the condenser. This stores a high voltage charge to help your compressor and condensing fan get started. When this fails, your compressor may fail to start. You may hear a loud buzzing or humming sound.

When any of these components stop working correctly, it puts tremendous strain on the rest of the system. The best way to reduce your annual repair costs is by having seasonal professional maintenance attending to problems quickly.

People around Atlanta have turned to Bardi Heating, Cooling, and Plumbing for reliable A/C maintenance and repairs for over 30 years. We also offer a full range of heating and plumbing services, so you conveniently have only one partner for most of your home repair needs. Give us a call to schedule your air conditioning maintenance or repair today.

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