Reciprocating vs Rotary Compressor in AC: Know the Difference

Last Updated on 26 February, 2023 by Darshan Chana

Are you looking out to buy the best air conditioner? In that case, you must look into the three major components – evaporator, condenser and compressor. Today I am going to brief you on the different types of compressors. Reciprocating vs Rotary Compressor. Which one’s better? Know everything about the two in-depth with me.

Reciprocating vs Rotary Compressor in AC


What makes a compressor ideal and efficient? Silent? Compact? Energy saver? Quality of air? Durability? Price? Maintenance? All of them and more. One must consider several parameters while deciding on the right compressor. Does this sound too technical to you? And that’s exactly why I am here.


What is the role of a Compressor in an Air Conditioner?

What is the role of a Compressor in an Air Conditioner

Before discussing the difference between the two compressors and deciding which one is better, let me first brief you on why a compressor is so important.

  • It is solely responsible for pressurizing the refrigerant. Thereby converting the heat to a transference fluid.
  • The compressor lets the unit work continually.
  • It lets the air conditioning unit system cool effectively.
  • The compressor is the heart of the cooling cycle.
  • A broken compressor leads to the air not cooling.
  • Besides cooling and transfer of air, a compressor helps in the elimination of humidity.
  • The compressor can effectively remove hot refrigerated gas from the unit.

Now that you know how important a compressor is, you must choose it wisely and sensibly.


What is a reciprocating compressor?

What is a reciprocating compressor

Reciprocating compressors, also known as piston compressors, can effectively increase pressure in air and compress it. It works on the principle of ‘back and forth’ motion. This means it compresses the gas and then discharges it.

Advantages of reciprocating compressor

  • Reciprocating compressors have a low initial capital investment.
  • It is capable of producing high pressure.
  • This compressor is not restricted to placement.
  • It is easy to maintain.
  • They have a high capacity of providing non-stop flow.
  • It works well under high pressure.
  • This type of compressor is easily available in the market.

Disadvantages of reciprocating compressor

  • Reciprocating compressors can get noisy.
  • They are prone to high vibrations.
  • The compressor releases high-temperature air.
  • Reciprocating compressors have a low life expectancy.
  • Due to high pressure, reciprocating compressors waste a lot of energy.


What is a rotary compressor?

What is a rotary compressor

Rotary compressors have a unique design of a rotors pair. They are designed in the opposite direction so that they can release air comfortably at high pressure. However, the clearance between the two is very little. Air passes between the two once the rotors move in opposite directions.

Advantages of rotary compressor

  • Rotary compressors are less noisy and do not vibrate much.
  • The compressor releases low-temperature air.
  • It has a longer life compared to its counterpart.
  • This compressor is an ideal option for big spaces.
  • It has a high-speed operation.
  • Rotary compressors assure high reliability.

Disadvantages of rotary compressor

  • Rotary compressors are relatively more expensive.
  • The discharge pressure is low compared to the reciprocating compressor.
  • The compressor requires minimum air usage in a day.
  • It requires regular skilled maintenance.
  • The compressor works efficiently only in a clean operating environment.


Reciprocating vs Rotary Compressor: Know it All

Reciprocating vs Rotary Compressor

Reciprocating Compressor Rotary Compressor
It has a high operation speedIt has a low operation speed
Reciprocating compressors are relatively cheaper.Rotary compressors are more expensive.
The compressor has high moving parts.The compressor has fewer moving parts.
It is high on noise and vibrations.It is low on noise and vibrations.
Pressurized steam is the working fluid.Air and other gases are the working fluid.
The compression takes place due to the piston and cylinder arrangement.The compression takes place due to the rotary movement.
Reciprocating compressors are ideal for residential use.Rotary compressors are ideal for commercial use.
The life expectancy is less.The life expectancy is more.
The compressor releases high-temperature air.The compressor release low-temperature air.
It does not require any minimum air usage in a day.It does require some minimum air usage in a day.
It has a high-pressure ratio.It has a low-pressure ratio.
Reciprocating compressor requires more space for installation.Rotary compressor requires less space for installation.
Due to high speed, reciprocating compressors produce more heat and waste more energy.Due to low speed, rotary compressors produce less heat and waste less energy.
They are low on efficiency.They are high on efficiency.
Best for intermittent use.Best for continuous deliverance.


One Last Thought

In this battle of reciprocating vs rotary compressor, we do not have a winner. Both types of ac compressors are ideal in different situations. Speaking about the reciprocating compressor, it is best for intermittent use, small shops and residential use. At the same time, the rotary compressor is great in case of continuity use. Also, the compressor is more efficient and perfect for commercial use. Remember that the rotary compressor is ideal for places that have clean air requirements. So, if you are looking out for a food processing unit or paint shop, do not have two minds about getting this one.

Have you understood the difference between rotary and reciprocating compressors completely? In case of any confusion, do not hesitate to get in touch with me.

Also, if you are looking to bring home the best air conditioner, I have plenty of options for you.

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