Learn How Your Split Air Conditioner Works

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Air conditioning is a needed commodity in a world where the summer sun can cause temperatures to spike into the 100’s and cause the humidity to make dry heat seem like a pleasure.

An air conditioner is designed to regulate both the temperature in a room and the humidity taking care of summers two worst issues. If only the outside could be as comfortable.

One type of air conditioner, the split, works by providing air from a wall mounted cooling unit or vents in the floor (which will be discussed in another post).

  • It is called a split air conditioner because it has an inside and an outside part.
  • Most central heating units are of this type.
  • The reason for the split is that, like other models (especially window units) it keeps the hot outside and the cool inside.
  • The compressor and the condensing coils are on kept on the outside of the house and the evaporator coils and blower are on the inside of the house.

This blog post will explain exactly how this type of unit works and how it can work well. There will be a discussion of how the unit can be kept working effectively, how it differs from other types of air conditioners and a list of parts and their uses will be given.

How a Split Air Conditioner Works

  • Gas, a refrigerant, is fed into the compressor where it is pressurized. This also causes the heat in the gas to rise.
  • The pressurized gas then goes through a succession of tubes that are meant to condense it into a liquid.
  • The liquid is still pressurized and travels through the condenser tubes until they come to an expansion joint.
  • The pressurized liquid passes through this point in the process and becomes a gas again as the pressure is rapidly reduced.
  • During the reduction of pressure the gas also releases a great deal of heat and becomes much cooler (thus, refrigerant).
  • split-ac-inside-300The gas then passes back to the compressor to repeat that process.
  • Air from the room is drawn into the unit and passes over the evaporator coils.
  • This action cools the air significantly which is then forced back into the room via the blower.
  • The air continues to circulate through the air conditioner until a set temperature (set by the thermostat) is reached.
  • At this point the apparatus shuts off automatically.

split-ac-outdside-300The operation of a split air conditioner, as is shown through the points above, is very much like that of any other air conditioner.

The difference is that one portion of the unit is completely contained on the outside of the home, while another portion is on the inside.

The compressor, vent fan and condenser coils are on the outside of the building in a self-contained unit, and the evaporator coils and blower are on the inside. The two are connected via pipes or other tubing.

Central air conditioners are a type of split air conditioner, but the unit most people see as a split unit has a smaller compressor/condenser coil box on the outside and individual room units on the inside.

These are made to cool a room without the need for ducting. In some ways it is a simpler system and allows better zone control.

What Makes it Effective?

A split-style air conditioner is effective because:

  • It can have a larger compressor than a window unit thus cooling a much larger area.
  • One compressor can be attached to several different ductless units or ducting (as in a central air system).
  • The individual units are easy to maintain (they have a very simple design) and the compressor is stowed either on the roof of the house or on a pad.

Efficiency is another concern. People are worried about electrical usage and it is easier to control when a zone cooling system is used.

If the individual ductless units are not turned on in a room, then they are not in operation. However, the compressor is always ready and there is less costly starting up and shutting down with this system.

How Does this Type of Unit Differ?

  • As mentioned before, a central air conditioner is technically a split system in a way, so there is no difference between these two, except split ac’s don’t require ductwork.
  • But the main difference between a split unit and either a portable or a window air conditioner is size and square footage that can be effectively cooled.
  • A split air conditioner will generally have a larger compressor and a greater overall capacity than either a portable or window unit.
  • It also differs, of course, in the fact that the unit is split into two distinct parts. Unlike the smaller units which are encompassed within one box.

split-ac-remote-300What Parts Does it Contain?

The parts list for the split air conditioner is much the same as other units. It has a compressor, condenser coil, expansion joint and vent fan all contained in the outer box. The evaporator coils, filter, blower and individual unit boxes are on the inside. Likely, there is also a thermostat of some type to control the entire unit, so you can enjoy even more comfort with your split ac.

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7 thoughts on “Learn How Your Split Air Conditioner Works

  1. Thanks for sharing this information on how split AC systems. work. It is pretty cool that these little systems can be used for just one room. In my opinion, that could help you better control the temperature in your home since you could just cool the areas that need it. In fact, this makes me wonder if I could get a split AC system for my son’s bedroom– that room gets so much hotter than the rest of the house!

  2. After having reached the desired temperature, does the AC turn off by itself( I.e both the outdoor and the indoor unit?

    1. A split AC unit works exactly the same as a normal air conditioner, it’s simply broken into two parts that are connected by a duct system. Like all ACs, a split system will shut off once the desired temperature’s been reached and turn back on when the temperature starts to rise. Once it’s been shut off, the unit is no longer pumping cold air into your home. The only electronic component that are still working is the thermostat, which monitors the temperature.

    1. All air conditioners dehumidify, including split AC systems. Dehumidification occurs when warm air gets blown over the evaporator coils. This lowers the ambient temperature and allows the water vapor to condense in to liquid. AC units dispose of this condensation either by storing it in a tank or evaporating it using the compressor. Since split AC units are divided in two, with the compressor and evaporator coils on opposite sides of wall, they use a drain to carry the water away from the evaporator coils and outside the building. Whether it is then stored in a tank or evaporated depends on the type of unit you’re using. Hope this clarifies things!

  3. Are we getting fresh air from atmosphere or air in the room is sucked&cooled again &again.kindly reply pl.

    1. Dear Davarajan,

      You always want to pull in outside air when you’re running your evaporative cooler. The cooler releases humidity as it runs, and this will make it less effective if it build up inside your home. If you’re running an evaporative cooler inside, always have at least one window open for fresh air to get in.

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