The meaning of air conditioning

Full air conditioning implies the automatic control of an atmospheric environment either for the comfort of human beings or animals or for the proper performance of some industrial or scientific process. The adjective ‘full’ demands that the purity, movement, temperature and relative humidity of the air be controlled, within the limits imposed by the design specification. (It is possible that, for certain applications, the pressure of the air in the environment may also have to be controlled.) Air conditioning is often misused as a term and is loosely and wrongly adopted to describe a system of simple ventilation. It is really correct to talk of air conditioning only when a cooling and dehumidification function is intended, in addition to other aims. This means that air conditioning is always associated with refrigeration and it accounts for the comparatively high cost of air conditioning. Refrigeration plant is precision-built machinery and is the major item of cost in an air conditioning installation, thus the expense of air conditioning a building is some four times greater than that of only heating it. Full control over relative humidity is not always exercised, hence for this reason a good deal of partial air conditioning is carried out; it is still referred to as air conditioning because it does contain refrigeration plant and is therefore capable of cooling and dehumidifying.

The ability to counter sensible and latent heat gains is, then, the essential feature of an air conditioning system and, by common usage, the term ‘air conditioning’ means that refrigeration is involved.

Posted in Engineering Fifth Edition