Types of Compressor Used in Air Conditioning Systems

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This post covers the types of compressors in detail.

Compressor covered here

  1. Reciprocating
  2. Rotary
  3. Screw
  4. Scroll
  5. Centrifugal

Use of Compressor in Air Conditioners

The main function of it is to compress the refrigerant from gas to liquid which further goes in the condenser coil, then to the expansion valve, and then to the evaporator coil eventually getting back to the compressor.

A compressor is the most important part of any air conditioning system.

It is the “heart” of an AC. 

Types of Compressor

1. Reciprocating

reciprocating compressor

Its design is similar to that of a combustion engine in cars.

It contains a cylindrical design inside which a piston is placed, and there are two valves – suction and discharge for gas flow.

The piston goes back and forth to create high pressure and compresses the gas.

Mostly used in commercial air conditioning systems.

There are further classifications of reciprocating compressors, one of which is used in home refrigerators.


  • Easy Maintenance

Both the piston and shafts are easy to maintain and so the cost of maintenance is low.

  • Capacity to work at high pressure

This compressor can work at very high pressure and power.


  • Noisy

Similar to combustion engines in cars, this has moving parts that vibrate and make too much noise.

2. Rotary

rotary compressor
Image Credit

In this design, a pair of specially designed rotors rotate in opposite directions making the air to get trapped between causing compression.

All types of room air conditioners – window, split, portable use rotary compressor.

Rotary compressor is further of two types

  • Fixed speed Rotary compressor 

In this, the compressor rotates at a fixed speed.

  • Variable speed Rotary compressor

In this, the compressor can rotate at a variable speed. Used in inverter air conditioners.

Rotary compressor is also further classified into the single piston and dual piston.


  • Low Noise

Due to fewer moving parts inside the compressor, it makes a low noise, this is ideal for use in rooms, offices, etc.

  • Best for office, small rooms


  • Costly
  • Must be used for a minimum period of time per day

3. Screw

Mainly used in big buildings for cooling large spaces.

Ex- Used in Central air conditioning plants.

It contains two helical rotors(screw-like design) that move the air from one end to another, such that the low-pressure gas from one end gets discharged from another end at high pressure.


  • Easy To Repair & Maintain
  • Can Function at extreme weather conditions

4. Scroll

This is a relatively newer type of compressor.

Uses two scrolls – one fixed coil and one moving coil.

Fixed scroll is positioned in the center.

The moving scroll pushes the refrigerant gas towards the centre eventually reducing the space and thus compressing the gas.

Used in big capacity cooling systems like chillers.


  • Low Noise

Due to fewer moving parts, the compressor operation is smooth and quiet.

5. Centrifugal

At last, we have a centrifugal compressor that uses centrifugal force to suck in the refrigerant gas, with the help of an impeller the gas gets compressed.

This is used for cooling very large spaces even bigger than spaces that use screw compressors.

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