Pros And Cons Of Scroll Vs. Reciprocating Air Conditioner Compressors

22 April 2016
 Categories: , Blog


The cooling systems inside air conditioners works similarly to those inside refrigerators since both types of appliances involve a compressor that pumps pressurized, refrigerated air throughout. When choosing a HVAC system or unit for your home, understanding the different types of compressors available can help you ensure that you found the best fit for your needs.

Two common types of residential ac compressors are the scroll compressor and the reciprocating compressor. What are some of the pros and cons of each type of compressor?

Greater Cooling Capacity: Scroll Compressor

A scroll compressor features a small, streamlined, and relatively powerful design that makes this type of compressor a cooling workhorse. The scroll type of compressor can cool a greater amount of air faster than many other types of compressors including the reciprocating compressor. The scroll compressor is so efficient at cooling that the same type of compressor is often used in refrigerators.

More Efficient and Affordable: Reciprocating Compressor

A scroll compressor has a lot of power and cooling capability but those aspects come at a higher price tag. If you have a smaller home and only need a small central unit or window units, a reciprocating compressor-powered unit might prove sufficient. And a reciprocating compressor would be more efficient than a scroll compressor, which would provide much more power than you would need for your home's size.

Runs Hotter: Scroll Compressor

The power of a scroll compressor comes at a price in that the compressor can become hot during operation. Normally, the heating isn't a major problem and you likely won't even notice the problem happening. But if there is another imbalance within the air conditioner's condensing unit, the hot compressor can compound the problem.

The condensing unit relies on a motorized fan that helps cool the condensing coils, which become hot as the coils turn the refrigerant from a gas to a liquid. If the fan is malfunctioning or the coils are dirty, which causes the coils to become overly hot, the added heat from the compressor can make the unit more prone to overheating and shutting down as a safety precaution. This can lead to a problem called rapid cycling, which happens when the unit kicks on but then quickly turns itself back off.

Runs Noisier: Reciprocating Compressor  

Reciprocating compressors have their own running downside and that's the noise. The problem might not be noticeable if contained to an outdoor condensing unit but could become more of a hassle if the reciprocating compressor is in a window air conditioner in a main living or sleeping area in your home.

Contact a contractor, like Wright Total Indoor Comfort, for more help.