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A commercial HVAC system is a crucial component of your building. A well-functioning system is essential for temperature maintenance, humidity control, and air quality.

Commercial air conditioning systems work the same way as their residential cousins by removing heat from an indoor area, replacing it with chilled dry air, and expelling the hot air outside the building. However, they operate on a much larger scale, making them more complex and, therefore, more difficult to understand.

This blog post will explain the essential components of commercial air conditioners, how they work, the types of commercial air conditioners, and other topics like the cooling cycle and smart air conditioning.

Air Conditioners: The Basic Principle

Air conditioners work by taking advantage of a basic scientific process: when liquid is converted into a gas, it absorbs heat. An air conditioner enables specialized liquids to do this repeatedly, absorbing heat and expelling cool air in the process. It’s a simple concept that requires some clever machinery to make it work.

The Basic Components of Air Conditioners

The first step to understanding how commercial air conditioners work is to take a look at the different components involved. All commercial air conditioning systems have the following components.

  • Refrigerant: A liquid with the chemical ability to change into a gas at very low temperatures.
  • Evaporator Coil: Turns the refrigerant from a liquid into a gas.
  • Compressor: Puts the gas under high pressure, generating heat.
  • Condenser Coil: Expels the heat and turns the refrigerant from a gas back into a liquid, cooling it again for the next cycle.
  • Fans or Blowers: Keep the air moving through the whole system.

How Air Conditioning Components Work Together

  • Warm air from within the building is drawn into the air conditioning unit.
  • A fan or blower blows the warm air over the low-pressure, cold evaporator coil containing the refrigerant.
  • The refrigerant is cooler than the air, enabling the heat from the warm air to transfer into the refrigerant, leaving the drawn-in air cooler and dryer.
  • The cool air is then sent back out into the area to be cooled. 
  • Meanwhile, the refrigerant, which is now gaseous and hot from the heat transfer, is processed via the compressor and condenser coils. This results in the unwanted heat being released outside the building and the newly-cooled refrigerant moving through an expansion valve and returning to the evaporator to chill more incoming air.

How the Continuous Cooling Cycle Works

The key thing to understanding how the cooling procedure in an air conditioning system works is that when the refrigerant absorbs heat from incoming warm air, the heat causes the refrigerant to change into a gaseous state.

It should be obvious that if this process only happened once, the air conditioner would only have a very short lifespan. Therefore, it’s necessary for the system to continue cycling the refrigerant back and forth from a gas to a liquid so that incoming air is cooled indefinitely. The following processes happen once the refrigerant has been changed to a gas.

  • The gas is moved to the other side of the air conditioner unit and is put through the compressor, where the gaseous refrigerant is subjected to very high pressure, thus creating heat energy.
  • This hot and high-pressure refrigerant gas then passes from the compressor into the condenser coil. Basically, the condenser removes the heat energy from the refrigerant, turning the refrigerant back into a liquid.
  • The heat energy is blasted to the outside of the building through an external component. At the same time, the newly cooled refrigerant gets channeled back toward the evaporator, ready to begin the cooling cycle all over again.

How Do Different Types of Commercial Air Conditioning Systems Work?

You have several options when choosing a commercial HVAC system. Your choice will primarily depend on your facility. The most popular types of commercial air conditioners include the following.

Packaged Air Conditioner

This system is called packaged because it has an all-in-one design containing all the components needed for an air conditioner to work. Packaged units are usually installed outside (often on rooftops) of buildings like condominiums, senior homes, and hospitals. The cooled air is dispersed throughout the building by a network of ducts hidden in the ceiling.

Split Air Conditioning System

As the name implies, a split system involves two (or more) parts: an indoor and an outdoor unit. Commercial split air conditioners come in two types.

  • Single-Split System: This system is a good choice for small buildings, such as small cafes, shops, and offices. In order to cool multiple rooms, each air conditioning unit needs a separate outdoor unit.
  • Multi-Split System: One outdoor unit operates multiple indoor units, meaning extensive pipework is required. This system is most suitable for buildings of a medium-size, such as retail stores or restaurants.

Heat Pump

A heat pump works by heating or cooling a building through the transference of heat outside in summer and inside in winter. Because a heat pump does not produce heat, it is able to efficiently maintain a pleasant indoor temperature. However, it is not suited to regions that have extreme climate conditions.

Variable Refrigerant Volume (VRV) or Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF)

A very sophisticated ductless commercial HVAC system. It can vary the refrigerant volume to match the precise needs of a building, thus using minimum energy to reach the required temperature.

How Smart Air Conditioning Works

Taking into account the different temperature needs of the inhabitants of a building can be quite challenging and time-consuming. However, this problem can be solved by pairing a commercial HVAC system with a smart AC controller (for a ductless system) or a smart thermostat (for a ducted system). With a smart device, a building’s climate can be automated in several ways, including the following.

  • Setting schedules, e.g., having different settings for different days of the week
  • Creating zones with set customizable temperatures within the building

Looking for a Commercial Air Conditioning System?

If you’re a business owner or facility manager in Kansas City or the surrounding area and you’re looking for commercial air conditioning help, look no further than Design Mechanical, Inc. Our qualified technicians have years of commercial HVAC experience and will help you determine which type of air conditioner is best for your building.

Our team of certified HVAC emergency service specialists is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. You can be confident that after we have installed the commercial air conditioning system most suitable for your business, we’ll keep your system performing as expected.

Please don’t hesitate to call us at (913) 281-7200 if you require assistance!