An air conditioner's compressor contains a refrigerant. As it works, it sends this refrigerant through the system. As warm air blows across the coil that carries this refrigerant, the heat transfers to the refrigerant (cool always absorbs warm). A fan moves the cooled air through the ducting and out of vents that lead into the rooms of your house. The refrigerant returns to the compressor where the absorbed heat is moved outside. The refrigerant is then sent through the coil once again to continue the cycle.
Compressor -- Compressors are outdoor components in your system. The compressor is the pump that circulates the refrigerants through the air-conditioner. You can hear it when it's running so you'll know if it's working just by listening. If it starts getting louder, your compressor is about to fail. If it makes no sound when it should be on, it has already failed. Compressors fail for a number of reasons. Most often they fail due to strain from another failed part such as the fan motor. Electrical storms can also damage compressors. If the sound from the compressor gets louder or if you see a decrease in performance, you should have your compressor checked. A failed compressor will not heat or cool your house.
The performance of vapor compression refrigeration cycles is limited by thermodynamics. These air conditioning and heat pump devices move heat rather than convert it from one form to another, so thermal efficiencies do not appropriately describe the performance of these devices. The Coefficient-of-Performance (COP) measures performance, but this dimensionless measure has not been adopted. Instead, the Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) has traditionally been used to characterize the performance of many HVAC systems. EER is the Energy Efficiency Ratio based on a 35 °C (95 °F) outdoor temperature. To more accurately describe the performance of air conditioning equipment over a typical cooling season a modified version of the EER, the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER), or in Europe the ESEER, is used. SEER ratings are based on seasonal temperature averages instead of a constant 35 °C (95 °F) outdoor temperature. The current industry minimum SEER rating is 14 SEER.[dead link]
In the case of heated water or steam, piping is used to transport the heat to the rooms. Most modern hot water boiler heating systems have a circulator, which is a pump, to move hot water through the distribution system (as opposed to older gravity-fed systems). The heat can be transferred to the surrounding air using radiators, hot water coils (hydro-air), or other heat exchangers. The radiators may be mounted on walls or installed within the floor to produce floor heat.
Before opening the electrical cover on the A/C unit, be sure to shut off all power to the compressor unit and the indoor furnace or air handler, and verify that it is off. Note that this may mean shutting off a circuit breaker that serves the furnace and air handler, and then, near the compressor, pulling out the disconnect block (or shutting off the 220-volt power) to the outdoor compressor.