RAC Cars News


What Is The Difference Between Air Con And Climate Control?

By raccars Published

Most modern cars come with air conditioning as standard. You may think climate control is the same thing – but it is not!

The two systems work in different ways, and there’s a price difference between them as a result (air con is cheaper than climate control). Here we explain the difference…

Air con

Air conditioning cools air and allows the inside of the car to be colder than the outside. This is why cars with air con are so welcome in summer – as the sun blazes, chilled air from a compressor offsets it within the car.

To get the maximum blast of air conditioned flow, press the air con button (usually depicted by a snowflake-like symbol) and turn the temperature dial to ‘C’ or the blue zone of its range. If you want it warmer, turn it towards ‘H’ or the red zone: this gradually mixes in warmer air with the air conditioned charge.

As ambient temperatures, the amount of sunshine and even the speed of the car all change, you’ll need to alter the temperature dial to maintain an even temperature inside the car. This means drivers have to sometimes adjust it quite frequently – and this can even lead to battles with their passengers who prefer a different temperature!

Even so, air con is invaluable: it is why you now rarely see modern cars with their windows down when the sun is shining…

Climate control

Think of this as ‘smart air con’. Climate control still cools the air in summer, but does so intelligently. You set a specific temperature on the dial (say, 22 degrees) and a computer uses sensors to vary air con output to maintain this.

No matter if it is +30 degrees or -10 degrees outside, the interior of your car will always be kept at the temperature you set. It does this by smartly blending cold and warm air, constantly adjusting the balance to maintain an interior climate.

It’s real ‘set and forget’ stuff – some owners say they set the temperature once, when they had the car new, and haven’t touched it again in all the time they've owned it.

Climate control also often offers ‘dual zone’ control: the passenger can set a different temperature zone to the driver. Really expensive cars have multi-zone control, so those in the back can create their own temperature cocoon too.

For this reason, climate control is more expensive than standard air con. It requires sensors, digital displays and complicated algorithms to juggle fan speed, temperature flow and air con usage.

There is an added benefit to climate control though – it has the potential to save you money. Because it only uses the air con when needed, it may consume less power than standard ‘dumb’ air con which simply runs unchecked all the time.

Some modern climate control systems also have an ‘economy’ setting that do all the climate-controlling work without using the air con system (or using it only minimally). The car won’t be as cold in summer but you probably won’t notice when it’s colder – and you’ll save a lot more fuel as you go, too.

Needless to say, if you buy climate control, you’re also buying an air con system. Just a much more intelligent one…

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