A Little Lesson on How Your Window Air Conditioner Unit Works

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They have been around for decades now and it seems that they have become permanent fixtures in some houses.

Old, broken down residences with a rusted window air conditioning unit hanging lopsidedly from a side window is common in the Southeastern United States and in other parts of the country.

People have been using these small units as a means of beating the heat and humidity so persistently because they are both easily installed and simply removed. They are still one of the bestselling appliance types because of those distinctions.

The problem is that it is difficult to know when you have a good unit or a dud. Repairs can be costly if you have to ask someone else to complete them, often more than the cost of a new unit.

The stores treat them as if they were to be thrown away after just a few years of use and replaced with a moderately expensive new model. The problem with that is that many individuals do not have the funds to keep replacing an inferior model every couple of years. This air conditioner has to last.

So, you need to repair it. But, how? Here is a simple to follow and informative blog post that will instruct you in the mystery that is a window air conditioning unit. After reading, you will understand that it is actually a relatively simple machine that needs little maintenance and can be repaired easily (usually) when broken.

How Does a Window Air Conditioner Work?
coilAll air conditioners work essentially the same.

  • A window air conditioner is the same as a split air conditioner or a central air unit since it has the same components and uses the same chemical reaction to effect cooling.
  • In a nut shell, a gas is compressed (in the compressor of all places) until it is both heated and at a high pressure.
  • In this condition, it passes through the condenser coils which due to having a higher volume bring the temperature of the gas down which allows it to become a liquid.
  • This pressurized liquid then enters the evaporator coils through an expansion joint (or valve) which allows the refrigerant to expand from a liquid into a low pressure gas.
  • This rapid exchange allows the gas to cool quickly.
  • The gas is then sent back to the compressor, but on its way it passes through the evaporator coils which have air from the room inside passing over them. This heats the gas up somewhat (the heat and condensate are vented to the outside) as it is sent back to the compressor.
  • The air is sucked into the unit through vents in the top of the front cover of the window air conditioner.
  • The air is allowed to circulate over the evaporator coils and then it is expelled, via the blower, back into the room as cooled air.
  • A filter catches particulate of a particular size as it enters and exits the air conditioner.

What Makes it More Effective?

A window air conditioning units works because it is made to do a specific job and do it well. They are designed to cool one room, of a determined size and nothing more.


If the space you wish to cool exceeds the recommended space, you may need a bigger window unit or two of them to make sure it can maintain the temperature you want.

  • The majority of the air conditioning unit hangs outside of the window which makes for a bit of a problem.
  • This issue is alleviated by most manufacturers who include a bracket so that the window air conditioner can be installed safely on the outside of the window.
  • window-ac-flowers-300However, if this is not included (or if you bought yours from a neighbor, thrift store, grandma) then you may need to construct some type of frame to make sure it does not fall out of the window.

You will also need to seal around the unit with tape and plastic, boards or something else that will seal the edges of the unit. This is to make sure that cooler air is not escaping out of the window. Without this precaution you are just going to cool the whole world. Something your dad warned you against when you kept leaving the door open.

Is it Different Than Other AC Units?

A window unit is small and is designed to cool just a small spaceā€¦not an entire house. Again, to make sure that the unit operates properly, do not exceed the space limit by too much. The unit can overheat if it is overworked.

It is no different from other air conditioners in its operation, but it is smaller and confined to a small space. They are also portable in the sense that they can be installed in any room that has an adequately sized window.

Standard Parts

Case, compressor, condenser coils, front vent cover, filter, evaporator coils, expansion joint, vent fan, blower.

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