Refrigeration vs Air Conditioning: Difference and Comparison

Key Takeaways

  1. Purpose: Refrigeration is primarily used for cooling and preserving perishable goods, while air conditioning focuses on maintaining a comfortable temperature and humidity level for human comfort.
  2. Temperature Range: Refrigeration systems operate at lower temperatures, often below freezing, while air conditioning systems maintain temperatures within a comfortable range for human occupancy.
  3. Applications: Refrigeration is commonly used in industries like food storage and transportation, while air conditioning is prevalent in residential, commercial, and institutional settings to provide comfortable indoor environments.

What is Refrigeration?

Refrigeration is a technique used to remove heat from a space or any material to lower its temperature. For this technique, various refrigerants are used, which are fluids that can absorb and release heat energy when they change their state from liquid to gas and vice-versa. The respective cycle primarily incorporates four main components: an evaporator, a compressor, an expansive valve, and a condenser.


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Here, a compressor is used to compress the gases, which increases their temperature and pressure, cools them down, and then converts them back into a liquid state. This liquid refrigerant goes back to the expansion valve, reducing temperature and pressure, which flows towards the evaporator, where the heat gets absorbed from the space or material.

It has various applications like – industrial processes and food preservation. It also affects the environment a certain amount and releases CFCs gases depleting the ozone layer.    

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What is Air Conditioning?

Air Conditioning is a technique for dehumidifying, cooling, and circulating the air in the surroundings to make a comfortable and healthy environment. It primarily uses the same refrigerants as in the refrigeration technique, but in this case, they have an additional capability of controlling humidity. The refrigerants used in the air conditioning are – HCFCs, CFCs, HFCs, etc.

It involves four components in the refrigeration cycle: a condenser, a compressor, an expansion valve, and an evaporator. In addition, air conditioning machines have a blower or fan that helps air circulation control the temperature.

AC has become necessary for many people around us despite knowing that these machines emit harmful gases like – CFCs, HCFCs, and HFCs resulting in ozone depletion.

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Difference Between Refrigeration and Air Conditioning

  1. Refrigeration is meant for cooling down a material or a space whereas, comparatively, on the other hand, Air Conditioning is meant for controlling humidity, heating, and cooling.
  2. The cooling capacity of refrigeration is relatively high. In contrast, the cooling capacity of air conditioning is low.
  3. The system components used in refrigeration are – the evaporator, condenser, and compressor. While on the other hand, the system components used in air conditioning are – a blower, condenser, evaporator, and compressor.
  4. The temperature range of the refrigeration is less than room temperature. In comparison, the temperature range of air conditioning is allowed to be at room temperature or less than it.
  5. Refrigeration requires monthly maintenance if used for domestic purposes. While at the same time, air conditioning requires twice or thrice maintenance in a year.
  6. Refrigeration is not designed to control the humidity present in the surrounding. While in contrast, air conditioning is designed to control the humidity in the nearby surrounding.
  7. Refrigeration is said to be less efficient because of the low-temperature range, while, on the other hand, air conditioning is said to be more efficient relatively.
  8. The application of refrigeration is that it is used for industrial processes or food preservation. At the same time, air conditioning is used for domestic purposes, industrial or commercial heating, cooling, and dehumidification.

Comparison Between Refrigeration and Air Conditioning

Parameter of ComparisonRefrigerationAir Conditioning
PurposeIt is meant for cooling down a material or spaceIt is meant to control humidity, heating, and cooling
Cooling CapacityHighLow to medium
System ComponentsEvaporator, condenser, compressorBlower, condenser, evaporator, compressor
Temperature RangeLess than room temperatureRoom temperature or less than room temperature
MaintenanceMonthlyTwice or thrice a year
Humidity ControlNot designed for the functionIt controls the humidity
Energy EfficiencyLess efficientMore efficient
ApplicationIndustrial processes or food preservationDomestic use, industrial or commercial heating, cooling, and dehumidification
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