Air Conditioning – Simple to Sophisticated

If you’ve got heat-regulation problems in your home or office, then you’ll want to take action to address the problem. After all, it’s no fun sitting in a stifling, hot environment. It can effect concentration and productivity, too!

Fortunately, there are many different ways that we might go about addressing the problem, ranging from the simple to the more sophisticated. In this article, we’ll consider a few of them.

Simple solutions

Car roof down

If you’re driving along a motorway on a hot day, then you might be tempted to put the roof down and enjoy the sunshine. You’ll have the wind in your hair, and you’ll be cooler as a result. But this practice, as liberating as it might be, is not a very efficient means of cooling. You’ll have no control over the precise extent of the cooling, for one thing. For another, putting the roof down will enormously impact your fuel economy.

Windows open in an office

Similarly, if you’re sitting in an office on a hot day, you might be tempted to open a window. This might offer some relief, particularly if there’s a breeze. But it’s not a very efficient way of cooling a building. You’ll have no control over the extent to which the temperature is reduced – you’ll instead need to rely on the wind happening to blow in a given direction. Unless you’re based in one of the colder parts of the world, you’ll want to make use of some more elaborate cooling technology.

Sophisticated solutions

Electric fans

We human beings rid ourselves of heat at skin level. When air molecules touch our skin, some of the heat from our bodies is transferred to them. When those same air molecules are moved away and replaced by colder ones, we get even colder. The faster the turnover, the more effective the cooling – which is why sitting in front of a powerful fan feels cold.

If your skin is exposed to an electric fan, then this undoubtedly help to cool it. But in most domestic and professional environments, you won’t have much skin exposed. And if you’re running a crowded office, you’ll probably not want to encourage your staff to start taking their clothes off – after all, the resultant distraction will probably curb productivity more than the heat ever could!

What’s more, sometimes the heat is so intense that no amount of air-circulation can compensate. In this situation, we feel as though we’re being bombarded with stifling, warm air currents. If we’re to effectively regulate the temperature in our homes and offices, then we’ll need to turn to a more ingenious solution.

Air Conditioners

An air conditioner makes use of both a fan and some clever plumbing to transfer heat energy from one part of a building to another. The conditioner as we know it today came to be in Brooklyn, when an engineer name Willis Carrier came up with a way of regulating the humidity in the factory.

The New York humidity was causing the printing technology of the time to malfunction, with the ink becoming smeared and indistinct before it had a chance to dry. In order to solve the problem, carrier used a fan to blow air over a set of cold pipes. The air cooled down, and in doing so lost the energy required to carry the water. The result was condensation, and reduction in humidity – and, crucially, in air temperature. Within a few decades of Carrier’s idea, the technology had spread across the globe.

The modern air-conditioning unit operates the same principle as Carrier’s first design. A coil of pipes, containing a special fluid with a low freezing point, is blow over with a fan, which in turn causes the surrounding air to cool. This coil of piping is known as the condenser coil.

This in turn causes the temperature of the fluid to rise, and so too the pressure within the pipe. This hotter fluid moves along the pipe until it reaches another coil of pipes in another location (usually on the outside of the building). These pipes are then cooled with a second set of fans, which transfer heat to the surrounding area. This set of coils are collectively known as the evaporator coils.

From there, the coolant passes through a special compressor on its way back to the condenser coils, where the cycle begins anew. By manipulating the speed of the fans and the pressure within the compressor, we can regulate the temperature of our indoor environment very precisely.

An air conditioning unit will also act as a dehumidifier, which can also have a profound impact on our subjective impression of heat. We humans rid our bodies of heat by sweating, and excess humidity can prevent sweat from evaporating properly. In a dryer climate, our sweat will evaporate, and we’ll consequently feel a great deal more comfortable and cooler.

Finally, an air-conditioners needn’t just act as a cooler and dehumidifier. It can also work as a heater, by reversing the direction of the flow of coolant. This will cause heat energy to be transferred from outside of the building to inside. This will make the whole system useful not only in summer, but in winter, too.

As a result of all of these things, an air-conditioned environment – whether it’s an office, a school, a car or a villa – will be far more pleasant to live inside. Air conditioning systems come in a range of sizes and levels of complexity – if you’ve just got a small space to condition, then you might consider a unit containing all of the various coils, fans and piping in a single unit – usually mounted in a window. On the other hand, if you’ve got a large building that needs cooling, you might consider a system comprising many different coils in many different rooms, all adjoined by air vents and all leading to a single, central evaporator. Such systems are often found in large public buildings, like hospitals, leisure centres and schools.