Home Improvement

How Do Split System Air Conditioners work?

For millions of people worldwide, the best choice for cooling a home is the split system air conditioner. Why the name, and how does the unit work? These are common questions homeowners have when they investigate the different ways to cool their living space.

The first is the easiest to answer because it’s the simplest:

Why the Name “Split System”?

The “split” is because the cooling unit is divided into two distinct parts, one on the outside of the house and the other on the inside. Of course, the two are connected by various kinds of tubes and piping, but in every other way, the parts are indeed “split.”

The outside part holds the compressor, coils of the condenser, and a part called the vent fan. The inside part of a split system air conditioner holds the air conditioner’s blower as well as the coils for the evaporator.

The second question is a bit more complex.

How Does a Split System AC Work?

Fortunately, you don’t need to be an air-conditioning expert or engineer to understand how a split system air conditioner works. Here is a short version of the steps:

  • A refrigerant gas is exposed to very high pressure inside the unit’s compressor
  • Next, the gas travels through various tubes that turn it into a liquid as a result of extreme pressure and a condensing process
  • Now a liquid, the refrigerant moves into a particular area called the “expansion joint”
  • In the joint, pressure is relieved or reduced, thus allowing the liquid to become a gas once again
  • During the phase when the pressure is extremely reduced, the gas emits a tremendous amount of heat and thus becomes quite cool
  • The heat travels back into the unit’s compressor to begin the process of turning into a liquid once again and eventually entering the expansion joint a second time
  • The extreme heat loss causes the evaporator coils to become very cold
  • Indoor air is pulled into the air conditioner so it can travel over the evaporator coils and become cooler
  • The blower pushes the now-cold air back into the interior of the home and cools the room
  • A thermostat controls the ultimate temperature of the air within the unit, where the process of turning warm air into cool air is repeated until the room reaches the temperature indicated on the thermostat
  • At that point, the unit turns itself off until the thermostat tells it to bring more cool air into the home

The next time you hear the term “split system” when someone is talking about air conditioners, you’ll have a more thorough idea of how the systems work and how they got that strange name. And if someone asks you why split system units are so efficient, give them this three-part answer:

  • Maintenance for split system AC units is relatively simple because of their basic design
  • Split AC units can hold huge compressors, making them both powerful and efficient
  • One unit can hold a massive compressor and connect it to one or more indoor units, thus providing cool air for an entire house without the need for ducts

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