Tuesday, July 5th, 2016 at 11:00 am
Refrigerant is one of the most critical ingredients in any air conditioner or refrigeration unit. While you may have heard of this substance, you may still be wondering how it functions to create the cool air that you enjoy all summer long. Along with the compressor, blower motor, condenser, and evaporator coil, it is part of a refrigeration cycle. Let's have a closer look at the importance of refrigerant:
The science of thermal energy is complex, to say the least. For our purposes, we only need to understand a couple of basic facts:
Now, let's have a brief look at the refrigeration cycle. Beginning as a low-pressure gas, the refrigerant is sent through the compressor located in the outdoor unit, where it is made into a high-pressure gas (hence, the term compressed). The blower motor blows outside air through the condenser coils where the refrigerant cools rapidly. The high-pressure gas is much hotter than even the hottest outdoor air.
You've now got a hot liquid refrigerant that needs to get much cooler before it can hope to cool down your indoor air. The expansion valve allows the refrigerant to cool rapidly before it gets to the evaporator coil. Located within the indoor unit beside the air handler, the evaporator circulates the cold liquid refrigerant through coils that come into contact with incoming warm air from your home.
During this thermal interaction, the refrigerant absorbs heat from that indoor air, thus dehumidifying it and cooling it in the process. The refrigerant, now a low-pressure gas, repeats the same cycle over again. As you can imagine, any loss of refrigerant disrupts the entire cooling process, so it's important that you have exactly the right amount of refrigerant at all times.