Air conditioning vs. climate control: What’s the difference?

Last updated November 18th, 2022

While people often mistakenly use the phrases ‘air conditioning’ and ‘climate control’ interchangeably, these are different systems that work in different ways.

Nowadays, air conditioning is included as standard with most new production cars, whilst climate control is a fairly new feature that’s available as an optional extra with selected models.

In this article, we’ll cover how we define both air conditioning and climate control - and how each of them work, before comparing their differences. If you are considering upgrading your car, but are unsure whether to opt for climate control over standard air conditioning, don’t commit until you’ve read our guide!

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What is air conditioning?

Air conditioning or A/C is the most common form of temperature control used within cars today. It works to replace warm air with cooled air inside a vehicle’s cabin using a condenser to cool and dry out the air. Included as standard with most modern vehicles, A/C systems aren’t overly sophisticated, but they are still a much needed and useful feature. Vehicles can become uncomfortably warm and stuffy without a temperature control system. They also make it easier to clear windows obscured by condensation.

How does air conditioning work?

When active gas contained within the air conditioning system is pushed to the condenser, fresh air from outside the vehicle passes by the condenser, quickly reducing its temperature. It then passes through the drier, which removes any impurities in the air. This clean, cool air is then pumped into the cabin of the vehicle.

Many air conditioning systems allow the driver to dictate the temperature of the air coming out of the blowers - and can even be set to pump out warm air that has been conditioned to remove impurities, delivering dryer air that can clear condensation quickly.

What is climate control?

Climate control uses air conditioning to automatically adapt to and regulate your desired cabin temperature. This system allows for much more automation and is generally controlled using your vehicle’s infotainment/multimedia system.

How does climate control work?

Climate control monitors the temperature within the cabin and uses fans, air conditioning and heating to maintain the target temperature that’s pre-set by the driver. For example, if the target temperature is pre-set to 23°C, the climate control system will activate whichever appliance is needed to reach this, whether the temperature needs to be increased or decreased. The climate control system will also automatically switch off these features when they are no longer needed.

What is the difference between climate control and air conditioning?

Air conditioning is a simple, yet functional temperature control system, which uses fans to circulate cool air. The average AC system is fairly limited in capability, but still provides much-needed assistance with temperature regulation.

Climate control, meanwhile, can be seen as a ‘set and forget’ temperature control system, which continuously works to maintain the desired target temperature, utilising the AC, fans and in-car heater.

Is climate control better than air conditioning?

Air conditioning and climate control are both effective temperature control systems. However, the additional capabilities and intelligent automation features found in climate control mean that it can provide users with greater control over the in-cabin temperature.

High-end climate control systems even offer multi-zone climate control, allowing users to set separate target temperatures for different areas of the cabin! Therefore, if you ever have the chance to upgrade to a vehicle with climate control, we’d recommend taking it. We think you’ll see a positive difference in driving comfort.

Can air-conditioning be upgraded to climate control?

It is possible to convert air conditioning systems to climate control by having the AC replaced with an auto unit. Additional wiring may be needed to power the new climate control unit. Climate control conversion should be carried out by an experienced mechanic in the interest of quality and safety.

Converting to climate control from a standard air conditioning system can be a costly process - and there is also the risk that your newly fitted system will fail. When a standard air conditioning system fails, repairing the compressor and condenser often solves the issue. However, if the sensors or electronics in a climate control system become faulty, this can be more expensive to repair.

If you would like to make the switch to a vehicle with climate control functionality, you may wish to sell your car through a trusted car buying service such as webuyanycar. Don’t forget, you can use our simple car valuation tool to get a free estimate of your car’s value in under 30 seconds. Simply enter your vehicle’s registration number and mileage, then we will take care of the rest.

Many reputable car manufacturers now offer climate control as an optional extra with their new vehicles, alongside features such as keyless entry, parking sensors and cruise control.