Air Conditioner Compressor 101

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Have you ever taken a look at an air conditioner and wondered, “What the heck is that thing?” I mean, it looks like a big metal box with tubes and wires coming out of it. Well, let’s take a closer look and find out what all those pieces do:

The air conditioner compressor is made up of two parts – the compressor head and the suction tube.  It has six main components inside – three valves (the oil separator, discharge valve, liquid receiver), two seals (the suction seal & the shell seal),  and one or more rotors  (with oil grooves). Let’s talk about each piece in detail…

1. The Compressor Head

The compressor head holds the Compressor Rotor Assembly inside.  This is the part that does all of the squishing! When you press your air conditioner remote control and tell it to cool things off in your home, the compressor head gets to work compressing gas, which makes a high-pressure liquid.

2. The Suction Tube

The suction tube carries the high-pressured liquid from the compressor head to other parts inside your air conditioner so they can use it as a coolant. It also helps maintain a solid connection between the compressor and other parts because it’s made from very thin metal ..

3. Five Valves There are three valves that do important jobs: The Oil Separator Valve, the Discharge Valve, and the Liquid Receiver. They make sure liquid flows through your air conditioner without any problem…

4. Two Seals The liquid receiver and suction seal make sure liquid can’t escape from your air conditioner throughout the operation.  If liquid escaped out of your AC, it’d be an expensive mess! …

5. Rotors with Oil Grooves The compressor rotor (or compressor wheel) is a part that’s inside the compression head and has oil grooves running along its surface.  The oil comes up to touch every part of this rotor as it spins during operation – helping the compressor run smoothly…

6. Compressor Block The final piece of internal equipment in your air conditioner is called the compressor block, which is made of metal to withstand high pressure.  It helps hold together all the other parts inside the compressor. And that’s what makes up your air conditioner compressor!

Now let’s talk about how it works…

When you turn your AC on, the compressor head quickly compresses the gas into a liquid. This process causes heat, so the hot liquid needs to be removed…

The three valves work in unison to remove this built-up heat and allow gas to re-enter the compression chamber. If one of these valves didn’t exist, your air conditioner would fail to function properly – or even stop working completely!…

Next, oil travels along the suction tube to lubricate every part it reaches.  If there wasn’t an oil separator valve, your air conditioner would seize up and stop working. Each time the suction tube receives oil from the compressor head, this keeps it lubricated and running smoothly…

Finally, once everything’s cooled off and ready to work again, the pressure becomes low enough that the liquid receiver opens up. This releases out any remaining liquid in your AC. …

And finally: you get sweet, cool comfort! Your home is nice and chilly because of all those soothing cold molecules pumping through your ac system (thanks to the high-pressure liquid from before). …

Whew – that was a lot of information, but you did it! Now you know what makes an air conditioner tick.

Why trust Handyman.Guide?

s written by Itamar Ben-Dor, who has 25 years of experience in renovations, carpentry, locks, creation, landscaping, painting, furniture construction, and furniture renovation, works with concrete, plumbing, door repair, and more.

Itamar Ben-Dor has been in the home improvement business for over 25 years. Itamar Ben-Dor is a jack of all trades. He's worked in the renovation field for years, doing everything from locksmithing to carpentry. He's a small repairs specialist. But his true passion lies in furniture construction and renovation - he loves seeing old pieces come back to life with some new woodwork or a fresh coat of paint.

He has taken courses on many topics in these fields at professional colleges in Israel. Over the years, Itamar has also become quite skilled in gardening, carpentry, and renovations. He's worked on projects of all sizes, from massive renovations to small repairs. No job is too big or too small for him!


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Itamar Ben Dor

Itamar Ben Dor

My father is a practical engineer, and as a hobby he was also involved in construction, renovations, carpentry and woodwork at home; So there was always tools, saws, drills and more at home. Already I was a little kid Dad and I would renovate the house. Once we built a shed for garden tools, once we did flooring for the garden, once we renovated the bathroom and that’s the way it is. Long before there was an internet, directories and plans. We would build things, kitchen cabinets, install electrical appliances, do flooring, pour concrete and more ... I in this blog want to pass on to you the experience I have gained over the last 20 plus-minus years since I was a child to this day and give you information about the best tools, project plans, guides and more.

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