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How air conditioning works

Converting heat from the air for heating or cooling a building
air conditioning with remote control
 Air conditioning systems can be used to provide space heating, cooling and domestic hot water.

In heating mode, an external heat exchanger or evaporator absorbs heat from the air and transfers it to a refrigerant vapour in the refrigerant circuit. This passes in to a compressor where the vapour pressure is increased which creates an increase in temperature. This higher temperature pressurised refrigerant passes through another heat exchanger or condenser, where it liquefies and transfers heat that can be delivered to the property via the air in the building. The process is also known as a vapour compression cycle.

In cooling mode the process is operated in reverse with heat in the building extracted from the air and disposed of to atmosphere. A variation on this involves heat recovery where the extracted heat from some parts of a building can be used to warm other parts of the property or using a heat pump boiler to provide domestic hot water.

Air conditioning systems are based on heat pump technology with components common to those is a refrigerator.

The efficiency of heat pumps arises from some of the heat or cooling coming from the atmosphere rather than from electricity. There is a ratio of heat delivered to electrical power consumed known as the Coefficient of Performance or COP. In cooling mode this ratio is known as the Energy Efficiency Ratio or EER. Typical values are between 3 and 4 so for every 1kW of electricity input the equivalent of 3 or 4kW of heating or cooling is achieved. Air conditioning heat pumps thus provide a very cost effective way of heating and cooling a building compared with direct electricity and can also compare favourably with other forms of heating.

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