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5 Types of Air Conditioning Compressors

The 5 Types of Air Conditioning Compressors

Inside each air conditioning unit is a compressor. The compressor plays the very important role of compressing the refrigerant as it enters the machine in order to increase its temperature. Once heated, the gas leaves the compressor and goes into the condenser so the cooling process can begin. While all AC compressors have the same job, they work in varying ways and offer different pros and cons.

Reciprocating Air Conditioner Compressor

The reciprocating compressor is the most popular type of AC compressor. A piston compresses the air by moving up and down inside of a cylinder. As the piston moves down, it creates a vacuum effect that sucks in the refrigerant. As it moves up, the gas compresses and moves into the condenser. A reciprocating air conditioning compressor is very efficient, as AC units can have up to eight cylinders within the compressor.

Scroll AC Compressor

Scroll air conditioning compressors, like this LG compressor, are newer on the scene. They contain one fixed coil—called the scroll—in the center of the unit, and then there is another coil that rotates around it. During this process, the second scroll pushes the refrigerant towards the center and compresses it. Scroll compressors are quickly becoming as popular as reciprocating compressors because they do not have as many moving parts and are therefore more reliable.

Screw AC Compressor

The screw compressor is extremely reliable and efficient, but it is mainly used in large buildings where there is a vast amount of air that requires continuous cooling. A screw air conditioning compressor contains two large helical rotors that move the air from one end to the other. As the refrigerant moves through the compressor, the space gets smaller, and it gets compressed.

Rotary Air Conditioning Compressor

Rotary compressors are small and quiet, so they are popular in locations where noise is a concern. The inside of this type of AC compressor contains a shaft with several blades attached to it. The bladed shaft rotates inside the graduated cylinder, consequently pushing the refrigerant through the cylinder and compressing it simultaneously.

Centrifugal Air Conditioning Compressor

The final type of AC compressor is the centrifugal compressor. As the name implies, it uses centrifugal force to pull in the refrigerant gas and then spins it rapidly with an impeller to compress it. Centrifugal air conditioning compressors are usually reserved for extra large HVAC systems.


Now that you know the different types of air conditioning compressors, you can choose the one that you think will serve your needs the best in terms of reliability and efficiency. To learn more about any of our AC compressors, contact us now.