There’s no shortage of innovation in the automotive industry. Car manufacturers have made it clear that if they can improve on something to become more competitive, they will. Most potential car buyers would first check out high-tech upgrades for engine performance and in-car entertainment. But what about your car air conditioning?
Is it possible to improve on something as simple and straightforward as a vehicle’s air conditioning system? Well, the answer is YES. Say hello to climate control.
Climate control might sound like a promotional hype that a guy from the Marketing Department at a car company came up with. But no, it’s not just PR jargon. It’s the kind of innovation that you’re sure to enjoy.
In this article, we’re going to help you understand the difference between a regular car AC system and climate control, an increasingly common feature in newer models today.
Car Air Conditioning
Let’s start with the basics.
What is a car air conditioning system?
A car’s air conditioning system is what makes the cabin comfortable for you and your passengers. The only input required is a temperature setting.
To put it in perspective, an AC system is not ‘smart’, so the system doesn’t do any ‘thinking’ per se. Set a temperature, and it’ll cool or warm the cabin to match that number.
If you like it cold, set the temperature low, and the system will cool the air inside down accordingly. But suppose you’re in a cold climate and prefer things a little toasty. Set the temperature you like and the system will give it to you.
Parts of a car air conditioning system
There are three main components in a car’s air conditioning system. These are the compressor, the condenser, and the evaporator.
Sound familiar? That's because manufacturers build these systems pretty much the same as the air conditioners you might have at home. Both methods work in similar ways as well.
The entire system circulates a refrigerant, something that changes from gas to liquid and back again. The compressor and condenser are outside the cabin, in the engine bay. At the same time, the condenser is inside the cabin to provide cold air.
Firstly, the compressor will pressurise that refrigerant and turn it into a gas that’s simultaneously high-pressure and high in temperature as well.
The system passes that gas onto the condenser which is somewhat like your car's radiator. It helps transfer heat onto the air outside the vehicle and cool down that gas into a high-pressure liquid.
This liquid flows towards the interior of the car at the evaporator, cooling down the air inside the cabin.
Beyond those three key components, there is also the blower or fan that pushes the cold air out of the vents, and the controls where you set the temperature you prefer. All these parts need to be seen and serviced by an automotive AC specialist; you will learn more from our article on the frequency of car AC servicing.
Climate Control System
What’s the best way of looking at a climate control system? Think of it as an AC system with a brain. In terms of generating cold air, both systems use the same components. However, climate control systems are far more advanced, taking things many steps further.
You can call these systems 'smart'. Your input (i.e. your preferred temperature setting) isn't the only bit of data needed by the system to do its job.
It also collects data from both the interior and exterior of the vehicle using sensors all over the car. These sensors take into account the conditions inside the cabin as well as outside, so it can adjust itself and provide you with more comfort.
Of course, you can always override these settings. But the best part of a climate control system is that you can let it automatically control the climate without you having to worry about anything.
Multiple-zone climate control
Climate control systems in cars provide a level of precision that you won’t get with a conventional air conditioning system.
Not only can the system provide you with the precise temperatures that you want, but it can also subdivide the car into different climate zones.
Some cars have two-, three-, and even four-zone climate control. That means that different parts of your car’s cabin can enjoy its own climate settings, separate from the rest.
Imagine this: You and your front passenger can enjoy one climate setting, while kids or other passengers in the back can set their temperatures however they want!
In comparison, you could say that a conventional AC system takes a more ‘one-temperature-for-all’ approach, while climate control allows for automated and personalised comfort instead.
Pros and cons of climate control systems
Of course, anything innovative, old or new, comes with both pros and cons. Here are just a few of them to consider before choosing between an AC system and climate control.
As we’ve been exploring throughout this article, climate control systems offer a level of convenience that AC systems can’t beat.
Instead of changing settings repeatedly, climate control will use its sensors to figure out what’s going on inside and outside the vehicle. Then, it can respond by adjusting temperatures accordingly and in real-time.
Pro: Personalised comfort
Climate control also offers multiple-zone comfort, meaning passengers in the different sections of the vehicle can choose their climate preference.
Everyone sits in one cabin, but each can enjoy a personalised climate in their own zones.
Con: Complex settings
With more sophistication comes more complexity. Some people might prefer the straightforward and no-frills approach of an AC system. That's because there's not much thinking or learning involved in using the conventional system.
With climate control, some users might feel overwhelmed by all the choices they have at their disposal. Even for tech-savvy individuals, navigating climate control settings will involve at least a little bit of a learning curve. If you think that’s an issue, here’s a handy guide to help you understand how the climate control switches and buttons work.
Con: Higher repair cost
Climate control systems are reliable, but they need repairs and servicing at some point. As a general truth in life, anything that’s high-tech and more complicated also demands higher cost of repairs and spare parts.
Plus, depending on how knowledgeable your trusted workshop might be, they might not have the skillset to fix a complex climate control system. If the system gets faulty, you may have to take it to a specialist.
If you’re looking for a specialist to help you with your climate control system, check out the Directory at Carpart.com.au. For replacement parts, you can search with ease using our Car Part Finder. To make full use of our resources, you may want to register. It’s free, so try it now!
By Ray Hasbollah