Air Conditioning & Heating can be very confusing to Beginners. Read this HVAC for Dummies article and learn HVAC in less than 5 minutes.
Is it surprising that the average person cares very little about how their air conditioning actually works? Of course not, our plates are filled with enough activity trying to excelling at our businesses or jobs, caring for our family, volunteering our time, and hopefully staying fit.
If, however, the AC decides to give you some attitude and stop working what do you do? Repairing and getting the system fixed can become a daunting task considering consumers must put a large amount of trust in their air conditioning repairman. Outside of calling someone else for a second opinion how would you know if the diagnosis and recommendations are sound items of advice? Further, how do you truly know if the second opinion is legit as well?
One way not to get bluffed is to demonstrate to your air conditioning repairman that you understand the language of ac and heating. I guarantee technicians will be taken aback if you show yourself as an educated consumer. They will also by nature be more careful.
OK, now comes time to actually learn something. Since one of the most powerful ways to learn is to build off of something you are extremely familiar with we will compare an HVAC system to the human body. The language I am about to use is related to the average system in a single family home in Houston, TX. Lets learn a little.
Compressor is the Heart - That box outside your house which you may think is the entire air conditioning system is just one of many pieces of equipment involved in cooling your home. Inside of it contains a vessel that looks like an upside down bucket or perhaps something Darth Vader would wear as a helmet. This item pumps refrigerant/freon through the entire system. If this heart/compressor dies then you may need 'heart surgery' or more.
Refrigerant(freon) is the Blood - What does the heart pump through our body.... well blood/freon of course. Blood transfers/transports many things just as Refrigerant changes states to provide cooling.
Line Sets/Coils are the Veins - Coming out of the compressor/heart are copper lines which feed the refrigerant into and back out of the house. This is a close looped system. Freon (Refrigerant) is pumped out of the compressor(heart) into the home and then returns in a different state ready to be pumped back through. Freon/Blood leaking out? Then we need to seal the veins. Depending on the region, veins can be very difficult or nearly impossible to repair.
Filter Dryer is the Liver/Kidney - Just as our own body filters itself the filter dryer on an air conditioning system removes any unnecessary (non nutritious) particles. The Filter dryer is located right next to the condenser(box outside).
Condenser operates like our Sweat Glands - Your body needs a way to cool down when working out. Your A/C's refrigerant needs to cool down as well because it absorbs heat. That box outside your home is there to cool down the refrigerant before it goes into the compressor. Thats why the fan is running. Its hot. It is looped in a coil pattern to increase surface area allowing maximum ability to cool down. You should not see sweat on your condenser. If you are seeing ice on the unit you should shut it down and call a professional.
Thermostat is the Brain - I think you get this one.
Control Board is the Central Nervous - The thermostat communicates to both the Condenser and the Furnace(which is where the Control board is placed). The central nervous system is an amazing part of our biology that operates without conscious effort. The HVAC system must work in unison with all pieces of equipment. Without a central nervous system the home won't cool or heat properly. Sometimes the CNS can get fried and need a replacement put in.
Blower Motor are the Legs - Ultimately the blower motor which is in your furnace (yes I said furnace) is the item that actually moves air in the home. Blower motors are fans that move air as our legs allow us to walk/run.
Ducts are the Feet - I admit I'm stretching for this one but open your mind a bit. Give your feet a little more credit. Its where the rubber meets the road and movement finally occurs through for walking and running.
Drain Lines are the Urinary Tract - The air conditioning system naturally condensates. This condensation must go somewhere. It moves moisture away from the unit typically into a sink and/or expels water out of the home. A clog in this system typically requires a quick fix.
Evaporator Coil function like Lung - When the Blower motor is running(get it? double entendre?) it sends air across the evaporator coil. Pulling warmer air from the house(via the return air). The coil absorbs heat and moisture from the home allowing for the air to be cooled then distributed via ductwork throughout. Our lungs absorb oxygen. Changing the state of air. The Evaporator Coil is typically place in attics or closets in Houston homes.
Return Air is Inhaling - Air being taken into the ac system. Typically always near the thermostat/brain.
Supply Air is Exhaling - Air being blown back out into the home via the ductwork distributed throughout the house.
Yes, I know I'm stretching some of these a bit. If you have some suggestions leave a comment below. The purpose of this is to foster understanding and promote conversation for the lay person. This is just one way to understand air conditioning systems. I hope you found this helpful.
Author David Lewis
MISSION AIR CONDITIONING