It’s not necessary to become an expert in the operation and repair of an air conditioning system. However, basic knowledge of common terms and machinery used in today’s AC units may be helpful for communicating with an HVAC professional. Some of the important terms used include:
1. British Thermal Unit (BTU)
A popular method for cooling before air conditioners existed was to use giant blocks of ice. The rate at which those blocks melted was measured in a “ton” of cooling. Today, this same amount of cooling is measured in British Thermal Units. The number of BTUs an air conditioner provides is a measure of how large a space the unit will be able to cool.
A common problem when an air conditioner no longer seems to work is a coolant leak. The system cycles coolant through the system by turning it into a gas in the evaporator and returning it to a liquid through the condenser. A lack of refrigerant or coolant means the system won’t cool anything.
Homeowners are commonly advised to change out their air conditioner’s filter on a regular basis. The filter makes sure that tiny particles aren’t cycled through the machinery and aren’t allowed to return to the cool air in the home. A clogged filter reduces AC efficiency and increases electricity use.
The evaporator forces the coolant to turn into a gaseous state by allowing the refrigerant to absorb heat and swiftly vaporize. The evaporator is part of the continuous system of coolant transfer that also includes the condenser and the compressor.
When the coolant from the evaporator has been turned into a gas, it will return to the condenser to be turned back into a liquid. A condenser will use a compressor to increase the pressure of the refrigerant to force it to turn back into a liquid.
The compressor is part of the condenser assembly, and as the name would suggest, increases the pressure around the coolant by reducing its volume. The compressor is part of the refrigerant cycle that repeats itself over and over again within the AC machinery.
Take a little time to get familiar with these terms. Gaining an understanding of common terms used by air conditioning professionals will make it easier to get the system serviced and figure out what needs to be done to update or improve cooling capacity in the home.