The burning sun soars high in the summer sky, and not a breath of air stirs the humid atmosphere. The children have stopped playing in the afternoon heat. The dog pants miserably. Grandma has left the oven-like indoors to cling to the shade of the porch, fanning herself with a cardboard fan from the local mercantile. Grandpa mops his face with an oversized handkerchief, and everyone tries to endure until Fall. Such was the height of summer before the luxury of modern cooling systems became the norm in most homes.
Years before early twentieth century endeavors by Willis Carrier, whose 'air conditioning apparatus' began to set modern industry standards, an early version of a motorized air conditioner was contrived in the 1850's by Dr. Jon Gorrie, a physician in Florida whose study of tropical diseases led him to believe that a cooler climate could prevent malaria. Even ancient history records attempts at cooling the indoor environment. As early as 400 B.C., the Persians were employing a form of refrigeration through the use of conical-shaped ice houses that stored ice harvested from near-by mountains.
Nowadays, as summer swelters on outside, we can gratefully retreat into the cool comfort of our homes while the A/C hums merrily along, conditioning our indoor atmosphere into a pleasant oasis. Most days we take for granted this wonderful, modern innovation of the past century. We probably enjoy it without giving it much thought, until it breaks down; then we are scurrying to the phone begging our friendly neighborhood HVAC pro's for immediate relief.
The modern home air conditioner works by removing heat and humidity from the air inside your home. The air is moved over an evaporator coil, which is basically a set of chilled pipes. The coil is filled with a cooling agent that transforms from a liquid to a gas as it collects heat. The cooling agent (Freon) moves from the evaporator coil to the condenser coil (the part of your a/c system that sits outside the house) where it releases the heat it has collected. Then the Freon condenses back into a liquid as it cools, sort of the same way shower steam in the bathroom fogs up the mirror; it condenses back into tiny droplets of liquid as it comes into contact with the surface of the cool glass. The compressor pumps the Freon between the evaporator coil and the condenser, keeping it all evaporating and compressing in the proper coil.
Air conditioners are complicated systems that depend on a number of factors in order to work properly; things such as the amount of 'charge' (Freon), air flow, the amount of 'load' they are designed to carry, etc. If any one of these goes out of kilter, you will encounter problems. If additional heat is added to the indoor environment from appliances, changes to the home (added windows, etc), or even more body heat from a large group of people, your air conditioning system might not be able to keep up with the demand.
Another important factor in maintaining the health of your conditioning system, which unfortunately is a pet peeve to many homeowners, is changing the filter. The filter removes tiny debris particles, such as dust, hair, and pollen, from the air to keep your air conditioner (and also the air you are breathing inside the home) clean. The filter continually becomes filled with more and more of this debris, which means it then begins to restrict the air flow through the unit. This, in turn, causes the unit to work harder to move the air through itself and your home.
If the filter is clogged, your system will not be up to optimum performance. If the filter becomes overly full, it will eventually become a source of air pollution to your home. If you remove the filter and do not replace it, the system will eventually become choked with debris, and it will die. And it will be guaranteed to choke and die on the hottest days of the year, when your system is required to work the hardest. Please note: Changing the filter on a regular basis is a necessity for the well-maintained longevity of your air conditioning system.