Air-conditioning is defined as a process which cools (or heats), clean, circulates, freshens air and controls its moisture content simultaneously.
Most often air conditioning is about removing heat. Now that we have defined air- conditioning let us get to know the nature of ‘Heat’. There are two types of ‘Heat’ : Sensible Heat and Latent heat.
‘Sensible Heat’ is any heat that raises the temperature but not the moisture content of the substance. This is our regular and familiar every day heat. Because it raises the temperature it can be detected by the senses, and this in fact, is why it is called Sensible Heat.
‘Latent heat’ is the tricky one. When we talk of Latent Heat we mean ‘Latent Heat of Vaporization’. It is that heat required to transform a liquid to vapour. Take water for example. Water can be heated to its boiling point of 100°C. If more heat is added at this point the temperature of the water does not increase. The water continues to boil and becomes steam. So where does all the heat go? Well, the heat goes into changing the water into steam. The latent heat of vaporization in this instance is the heat required to change water from liquid at 100°C to vapour at the same temperature.
Latent heat plays an important part in Refrigeration and Air conditioning. It explains the principle of refrigeration and also is a component of Heat Load, of which we will learn more along the way. Human being generates latent heat by way of moisture (perspiration) on their skin. This perspiration requires to be dried; therefore a change of its state from liquid to vapour is required. Fresh air which is added into the air system, very often brings in plenty of moisture with it. Removal of this additional moisture also involves latent heat removal.
A portion of the air-conditioning heat load is therefore in the form of latent heat. For example in an office 10% of the air-conditioning heat load could be in the form of latent heat. This goes up to around 25% in a restaurant and around 33% in a movie theatre.