The Purpose of Refrigerant in Air Conditioning Systems

How do air conditioners cool down a house? The process can be described succinctly this way: Refrigerant moves between two sets of coils in the system, one indoors and one outdoors. Along the indoor coil, the refrigerant absorbs heat from the indoors, cooling the air. The refrigerant then moves to the outdoor coil and releases the heat. The process then repeats.

There is an enormous amount of detail missing from that description, but it also begs the question: “What is refrigerant?” We’ll address this important question. It will help you understand a number of the repairs that ACs can require during their lifetime.

Whatever trouble you may have with your air conditioning in Beaverton, OR, you can call Clean Air Act any time of the day or night for experienced and effective repairs.

What Refrigerant Is and What It Does

Refrigerant is the generic name for the chemical blend that cycles through an air conditioner, changing from a liquid to a gas as it absorbs and releases heat. Sometimes referred to by the trademarked name Freon, refrigerant has come in a variety of types (“blends”) during its history, starting originally as toxic and combustible chemicals. Today’s blends are safe and have no ozone-depleting effect.

Refrigerant can shift easily between liquid and gas states, which makes it ideal for ACs since it doesn’t take significant amounts of energy to cause the phase shift. Refrigerant starts inside the compressor, where the reduction of volume turns it into a high pressure gas about 150°F. It moves to the outdoor condenser coil, where the warm air (which is still cooler than the refrigerant) moves across it and causes condensation, which releases heat from the refrigerant. The gaseous refrigerant then heads toward the indoor coil, and is now lowered to about 100°F. The gas moves through an expansion device, dropping its temperature and pressure and changing it to a liquid about 20°F.

The cold refrigerant now passes through the evaporator coil, and the warmer indoor air blowing across the coil goes through evaporation, warming the refrigerant and lowering the indoor temperature. The refrigerant, now approximately 50°F, returns to the compressor to restart the cycle.

At no point in this process is refrigerant lost: it remains at a set level, known as its “charge,” at all times. Refrigerant will only lose its charge through leaking, which is a major repair need; a lowered charge will not only endanger cooling power, but the change in pressure in the system can cause damage to the compressor.

Take good care of your air conditioning in Beaverton, OR this summer with maintenance and repairs from Clean Air Act. If you are having problems from a loss of refrigerant, we can seal up the leaks and recharge it to its proper level.

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