Difference Between Refrigeration and Air Conditioning

Refrigeration and air conditioning are the two methods used for lowering the temperature of the air. The significant difference between refrigeration and air condition is that through refrigeration the low temperature is maintained within a specified region mainly within the unit (refrigerator) itself. On the flip side, air conditioning helps to lower the temperature of a region of unspecified volume as its unit is designed to expel out the cool air outside the unit (air conditioner).

The folks of today’s technology-oriented world are very much dependent on the use of refrigerators and air conditioners as these two now come under their basic daily life need.

We all are aware of the basic working of an air conditioner and refrigerators that both are used for the purpose of reducing the temperature of the air. In the process of refrigeration and air conditioning, some special chemicals are used and both the processes use physical effects related to compression and expansion of gases. And by the use of chemicals and physical effects, the process of refrigeration and air conditioning takes place.

However, despite all the similarities discussed above, there exist various differences between these two terms. Refrigeration and air conditioning are mainly differentiated on the basis of their structural design and principle of operation.

Content: Refrigeration Vs Air Conditioning

  1. Comparison Chart
  2. Definition
  3. Key Differences
  4. Conclusion

Comparison chart

Basis for ComparisonRefrigerationAir Conditioning
BasicThe transfer of heat to a region with high temperature takes place.Removal of heat is done in order to maintain low temperature.
Types of circulation systemThe circulation system is designed to keep the cool air within the unit.The circulation system is designed to blow out the cool air away from the unit.
UnitsOne single unit for evaporator, compressor and condenser.Two individual units. One for evaporator and other for compressor and condenser.
SupplyFor the operation, gas is provided through pipes.The in-built chemicals within the unit takes air from the atmosphere.
PurposeSimply regulating the temperature in order to cool or freeze.To lower the temperature along with maintaining purity and humidity.
Fan within unitNot requiredRequired
Temperature rangeBetween 1.7⁰C to 4⁰C.Between 18⁰C to 24⁰C.
Power consumptionLessComparatively more
TaskOnly coolingGenerally cooling but are sometimes used for heating.
Example of dedicated deviceRefrigeratorsAir conditioners
UseCooling for food preservation.Cooling for maintaining purity and humidity of rooms or halls to give comfortability to humans.

Definition of Refrigeration

The process by which heat from a closed region is transferred to the region of high temperature to reduce the temperature of that particular region is known as refrigeration.

The process of refrigeration is such that initially, the refrigerant present in the tubes is in the liquid state. This liquid refrigerant is provided to expansion device i.e., the capillary tube where the molecules of liquid get expanded as the tubes lowers the pressure and this resultantly cools the liquid and changes the liquid state into a gas.

Now, the gaseous form of refrigerant which is of low temperature is provided to an evaporator coil that makes the inner surface cool. This is so because, through the evaporator coil, the gas passes, the low temperature within the interior region. Here basically an exchange of heat takes place as gaseous refrigerant exchanges the high temperature of the interior surface with its low temperature.

Further, the high-temperature refrigerant is provided to the compressor unit. This compressor on squeezing increases the temperature and pressure of the gaseous refrigerant. This makes the refrigerant extremely hot and high-pressure gas which is provided to a condenser coil of a low-pressure chamber, present on the backside of the unit. Here in the condenser coil, the gas exchanges heat with the external region of the unit and turn into the liquid of low temperature again.

This liquid from the condenser coil is provided back to the expansion device where the cycle is repeated.

Definition of Air Conditioning

The process of removal of heat from a region to reduce the temperature of that specific region along with maintaining desired humidity and air purity conditions is known as air conditioning. It is done for the purpose to get the desired comfort.

The way air conditioning takes place is a little different from that of refrigeration. Its major units are also evaporator, condenser, and compressor. It has two sides, one is the evaporator and fan while the second end holds the compressor, condenser, and another fan.

Initially, the liquid refrigerant of low boiling point is present within the unit, flows through the evaporator coil. The heat collected by the outside atmosphere turns the liquid refrigerant into gas and so at that time, more amount of heat will be in the refrigerant and less will be in the air. Hence once the heat from the air is removed then will the help of a fan the air is pulled outward.

However, at the same time, the heat collected from the outside atmosphere must be dumped downside. So, to achieve this, the other end equipment i.e., conditioning unit, a compressor with a condenser and a fan is used. The gaseous refrigerant collected from the evaporator coil is fed to the compressor where the pressure of the gaseous refrigerant is increased with temperature.

This compressed gaseous refrigerant is provided to a condenser where the coils of the condenser change the gas form into liquid form and by giving off the heat absorbed within the system. The heat given off is expelled out with the help of a fan and the liquid form of refrigerant achieved here is again provided to the evaporator section so that it can contribute to the further cooling process.

We know that sometimes in winters, air conditioning units perform heating of the room. This is achieved when the two sets of coils operate conversely. Here basically the coil present inside the unit performs condensation of the refrigerant and helps to heat up the room rather than cooling. These are generally referred to as heat pumps.

Key Differences Between Refrigeration and Air Conditioning

  1. In the process of refrigeration, heat from an enclosed surface is transferred out to a region with a high temperature. As against, in the process of air conditioning, heat from a region is removed to lower the temperature of that specific area.
  2. During refrigeration, the temperature is regulated to cool or freeze the items kept within the unit (refrigerator). While during air conditioning, a reduction in temperature is achieved while maintaining the purity and humidity of the air.
  3. The circulation system for refrigeration and air conditioning is quite different. This is so because the circulation system for refrigeration is such that here the cool air must be retained within an enclosed surface of the unit itself. However, the circulation system for air conditioning allows the cool air to be blown out by the use of a fan.
  4. The ideal range of temperature for refrigeration lies between 1.7⁰C to 4⁰C. While in the case of air conditioning, the ideal range exists between 18⁰C to 24⁰C.
  5. Vaporization, which changes the liquid into gas, is a crucial aspect of refrigeration as well as air conditioning. However, in both the processes it occurs differently. In refrigeration, vaporization occurs through boiling but in air conditioning, vaporization occurs through evaporation.
  6. During the process of refrigeration, the gas for the operation of the system is provided through pipes whereas, during air conditioning, in-built chemicals are used.
  7. The process of refrigeration consumes comparatively less power than the process of air conditioning.
  8. The sole task performed during refrigeration is cooling while air conditioning units are generally used for cooling but sometimes be used for the purpose of heating as well.


Thus, this discussion concludes that refrigeration and air conditioning allows the cooling of the region through the process of vaporization but it occurs in a different manner. The use of fans in air conditioning units helps to vent out the cool air to a large area like a hall which is not the case with refrigeration. As refrigeration units keep the obtained cool air within it without letting it travel outside.

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