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How Refrigerant Works in an Air Conditioning System


The heart of a central air conditioner is the compressor, a motor-driven component that is responsible for circulating refrigerant through the system. If the compressor is the heart of an air conditioner, than the refrigerant is the life-blood necessary for the AC to do its job. In this post we will look a bit more closely at refrigerant and how it allows the air conditioning system in your home to provide your family with cool, relaxing temperatures all through the summer.

If you require air conditioning services—a new installation, a replacement, repairs, regular maintenance—to prepare for the coming summer in Cary, NC, just call Raleigh Heating & Air.

The basics of refrigerant

Refrigerant is a general term that refers to a chemical blend inside an electro-mechanical air conditioner that can shift easily between liquid and gaseous states. The earliest refrigerants were toxic or combustible, which made air conditioning impractical outside of industrial buildings. But the invention of the first non-toxic refrigerant blend, known by the trademarked name Freon, allowed air conditioners to enter home use and spread across the country. The current standard refrigerant blend for residential air conditioners is R-410A, sometimes called Puron, which produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the previous blend, R-22.

As refrigerant transmutes from liquid to gas and back, it absorbs and releases heat. This is how it is capable of cooling down a home. The compressor changes liquid refrigerant into a high-pressure, high-temperature gas. The refrigerant moves to the outside coil of the air conditioner and releases its heat there through condensation, cooling down. By the time it reaches the indoor coil, it has cooled down to the point that it causes evaporation when it meets the warmer indoor air. This siphons heat from the air, cooling it down. The refrigerant, once again a liquid, returns to the compressor to restart the cycle.

The refrigerant will remain at the same level for the life of the air conditioner—unless leaks occur. If the refrigerant level (its charge) starts to drop, you will need to have professionals repair the system as soon as possible. Low refrigerant will not only lower the cooling ability of the AC, it can severely damage the compressor. Our technicians are ready with repairs when you need them.

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