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Do Air Conditioners Bring in Fresh Air From Outside?

Outdoor air conditioning unit in Cayman Islands home.

While we rely on our cooling systems to keep us comfortable, most of us likely don’t think about how our air conditioning systems cool the air in our homes. These HVAC systems are known for improving comfort and indoor air quality, but many homeowners are left in the dark about how they function. When you feel cool air circulating through your home, does your air conditioning bring in fresh air?

If you’ve been asking yourself, “Do air conditioners bring in fresh air from outside?” you’re not alone. We’ll answer this question below and discuss how standard air conditioners work to cool your home.

Does Your Air Conditioning Bring in Fresh Air?

So, do air conditioners bring in fresh air from outside? Simply put, the answer is no. While air conditioning systems have indoor and outdoor units, outdoor air is never brought into your home. Instead, your air conditioner works to cool your home by transferring the heat inside to the refrigerant in the pipes. The outdoor AC unit uses a fan to draw heat out of the refrigerant in the pipes and into the atmosphere.

In spite of a common belief that outdoor air is highly polluted and dangerous, studies show that indoor air is typically 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor air! So there are specially designed equipment to introduce fresh outdoor air, condition it and filter it. This is a great option if you or a family member suffers from respiratory illnesses like asthma or allergies. So air conditioners do not bring in fresh air but special equipment can be incorporated to flush out potentially harmful pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds (VOC’s for short), from building up in your home.

So if air conditioners do not bring in fresh air from outside, how do they cool indoor air? We’ll answer that in more detail below.

How Common AC Systems Work

Your air conditioner’s indoor unit has a return air intake. Indoor air passes through this air intake (which has a filter to keep dust and debris out). Here, the air passes through an evaporator coil with cold refrigerant flowing through it. The heat in the air is absorbed into the evaporator coil where the heat is transported to the outdoor condensing unit via copper pipes. This is a part of what we call the refrigeration cycle. Now that the heat is removed from the air the air conditioner then blows the cold air back into your home through what is called supply registers. Once the heated refrigerant arrives at the condensing unit outside it travels through another coil – this one is called the condenser coil. It is in this coil outside that the heat in the refrigerant is then dispelled into the atmosphere thanks to a fan blowing outdoor air across it. This refrigerant then returns to the evaporator coil inside, cold and ready to absorb more heat from the home.

When to Contact a Professional

Do air conditioners bring in fresh air from outside? No, as you can see, your AC only removes the heat from your home and creates cool air through a heat exchange in the refrigeration cycle. If it feels like your air conditioning does bring in outdoor air, this may be because your AC has leaks in the ductwork which need to be sealed.

If your AC has a problem, it’s time to talk to a professional to diagnose your air conditioner. Polar Bear is proud to offer comprehensive air conditioning installations in the Cayman Islands. If you’re looking for a new AC that you can depend on, our experienced cooling technicians are here to help. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our AC installations!

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