How Does Refrigerant Work in HVAC Systems?

February 16, 2021

Your air conditioner contains refrigerant inside its copper coils. The refrigerant is the lifeblood of the system. Let's take a closer look at how the refrigerant allows your AC system to cool your home all summer.

What Is a Refrigerant?

A refrigerant is a fluid that easily boils from a liquid into a gaseous state and can be easily condensed from a vapor back into a liquid. It readily absorbs the heat in its surroundings. When combined with components like evaporators and condensers, it can provide air conditioning.

How Does Refrigerant Help Your AC System?

The refrigerant helps your air conditioner cool your home by absorbing and releasing heat as it changes from liquid to a gaseous state and back. The compressor changes the refrigerant from a liquid into a high-temperature, high-pressure gas. AC components then move the refrigerant to the outside condenser coil.

The refrigerant enters the condenser as superheated vapor at high pressure. As it moves along the tubes of the condenser, fans blow air across the tubes to extract heat from the refrigerant. As the refrigerant loses heat, it condenses into a liquid.

When the refrigerant gets to the indoor coil, it will have cooled such that evaporation occurs when your warmer indoor air meets it. The temperature of the indoor air being higher than that of the refrigerant allows the refrigerant to absorb more heat energy. The refrigerant siphons heat from your indoor air, cooling it down. The refrigerant then returns to the AC compressor in liquid form to repeat the cycle. 

Types of Refrigerant

The refrigerants that have been commonly used in air conditioners include:

  • CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), such as R-12. Their production stopped in 1994 because of their damaging effects on the ozone layer.
  • HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons), such as R-22. These are less damaging to the ozone than R-12, but the EPA phased them out completely in 2020.
  • HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons), including R-410A. This is the current standard refrigerant and is better for the environment than R-22. R-410A systems operate more efficiently than the air conditioners that use R-22 coolant.

Without a refrigerant, there can be no air conditioning. In fact, the EPA requires refrigerant leaks to be fixed within 30 days. If you want to have a leak repaired or to upgrade to a cooling system that uses R-410A coolant in Monmouth or Ocean counties, contact the air-conditioning experts at Aggressive Mechanical Contractors.