Air con – what would we do without it? With summer here and the temperature outside creeping up, many of us will find ourselves asking this exact question. But thanks to Packard, an American luxury automobile company, who were the first automobile company in 1939 to offer an air conditioning unit in its cars, we will never need to find out the answer.
What is air con and how does it work?
Air conditioning, often referred to as A/C, is pretty universal these days, with most regular cars featuring an air con system. But how does it work?
Unlike many of us would think, it does not create cold air. In fact, it actually takes the heat and moisture out of the air, leaving behind cool air.
A car air conditioning system is made up of several components: a compressor, condenser, an evaporator, thermal expansion valve and a drier/accumulator. All of which contribute to a fully functioning air conditioning system.
Here’s how they work:
The compressor takes the refrigerant (the gas) and creates pressure. It compresses the gas and raises its temperature so that it changes into a high pressure gas; the high pressure then forces it through to the condenser.
The condenser is a radiator-like component that the gas moves through once it has been heated. Inside of the condenser, the heat is removed from the gas, turning it into a liquid.
As the liquid passes through the evaporator tubes, the air is forced through, becoming really cold – right before it hits your face.
Thermal Expansion Valve:
Although it may be super warm outside, you don’t necessarily want to be freezing your toes off! For this reason, the air conditioning system has a valve that controls the flow of the cold refrigerant to the evaporator – meaning you can control how cold the air blowing out gets.
Drier or Accumulator:
There is always the chance that some liquid could make it to the end of the process, which is where the drier comes into play. The drier catches the rogue liquid before it can damage the compressor.
Without the drier, the unit could end up forming ice crystals, which, as you can imagine, could damage the air conditioning unit.
How to keep your air con running efficiently
Buy a bacterial cleaner
Available online or at many online and physical car stores, a bacterial cleaner works to dissolve the dirt build up in your air conditioning system.
Usually sold in an aerosol can form; you must startup your car and put the A/C on full. With the air con blowing full, the aerosol can is placed in the middle of the car. Press down the nozzle on the can, unlike normal aerosol cans the nozzle stays pressed down when you let go, close the car door and allow to run until the can runs out.
You should allow the air to circulate for about 10 minutes before opening the doors to allow to vent.
The aerosol cans can come as single use or rechargeable.
Have it serviced regularly
You should have your air conditioning system serviced every 18 months to 2 years. If you let the system run low on refrigerant, the compressor will have to work twice as hard, which will cause it to wear out quicker.