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Vapor Compression Refrigeration System vs. Vapor Absorption Refrigeration System: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 25, 2024
Vapor compression refrigeration systems use mechanical energy for cooling, while vapor absorption systems use heat energy, often from waste heat or solar energy.

Key Differences

Vapor compression refrigeration systems use mechanical compressors powered by electricity. Vapor absorption refrigeration systems utilize a heat source, like gas or solar energy, to operate.
Vapor compression systems consist of a compressor, condenser, expansion valve, and evaporator. Absorption systems use an absorber, generator, pump, and heat exchanger.
Vapor compression systems are more commonly used due to their higher efficiency in typical applications. Vapor absorption systems are preferred where excess heat is available or electricity is scarce.
Vapor compression systems can contribute more to greenhouse gases due to electricity use. Absorption systems are considered eco-friendlier, especially if powered by renewable energy.
Vapor compression systems are generally cheaper and require less maintenance. Absorption systems are more complex and costly, but beneficial in specific applications.

Comparison Chart

Energy Source

Mechanical energy (electricity)
Heat energy (solar, gas, waste heat)

Main Components

Compressor, condenser, expansion valve, evaporator
Absorber, generator, pump, heat exchanger


High in typical applications
Lower, but efficient where heat is abundant

Environmental Impact

Higher due to electricity consumption
Lower, especially with renewable energy

Cost and Maintenance

Lower initial cost, less maintenance
Higher cost, more complex maintenance

Vapor Compression Refrigeration System and Vapor Absorption Refrigeration System Definitions

Vapor Compression Refrigeration System

This system operates on the principle of pressure and temperature manipulation.
Our air conditioner's vapor compression system efficiently cools the office.

Vapor Absorption Refrigeration System

Ideal for harnessing renewable energy sources like solar power.
The eco-resort employs vapor absorption refrigeration powered by solar panels.

Vapor Compression Refrigeration System

Known for its efficiency in small to large-scale applications.
Industrial freezers rely on vapor compression systems for efficient operation.

Vapor Absorption Refrigeration System

It is more complex but offers environmental benefits.
Our hospital's vapor absorption cooling system reduces our carbon footprint.

Vapor Compression Refrigeration System

Commonly used in household refrigerators and air conditioners.
My new fridge uses a vapor compression system for enhanced cooling.

Vapor Absorption Refrigeration System

This system does not require mechanical compressors.
Our off-grid cabin's fridge uses a solar-powered vapor absorption system.

Vapor Compression Refrigeration System

It is powered typically by electrical energy.
The vapor compression refrigeration system in our building is electrically powered.

Vapor Absorption Refrigeration System

Often used in situations where electricity is scarce or expensive.
In remote areas, vapor absorption refrigeration systems are a practical solution.

Vapor Compression Refrigeration System

A refrigeration system using a mechanical compressor to circulate refrigerant.
The supermarket's vapor compression refrigeration system keeps all produce fresh.

Vapor Absorption Refrigeration System

A refrigeration system that uses heat energy to drive the cooling process.
The factory utilizes waste heat to power its vapor absorption refrigeration system.


What makes vapor absorption refrigeration eco-friendly?

Its ability to utilize renewable energy sources and waste heat.

What is the primary energy source for vapor compression refrigeration systems?

They primarily use electrical energy.

Can vapor compression refrigeration systems use renewable energy?

Yes, if they are powered by electricity generated from renewable sources.

Can vapor absorption systems operate without electricity?

Yes, they can use heat sources like solar or waste heat instead of electricity.

Is the maintenance of vapor compression systems complex?

No, they generally require less maintenance compared to absorption systems.

Are vapor absorption refrigeration systems noisy?

No, they are typically quieter as they lack mechanical compressors.

Is the vapor absorption system cost-effective for residential use?

Generally, it's more cost-effective for commercial or industrial settings.

What type of refrigerant is used in vapor compression systems?

Various refrigerants, including HFCs, HCFCs, and natural refrigerants.

Are vapor compression systems suitable for large-scale industrial use?

Yes, they are efficient for both small and large-scale applications.

What is a common use of vapor compression refrigeration?

They are widely used in household refrigerators and air conditioners.

Are vapor absorption systems reliable?

Yes, but they require careful maintenance due to their complexity.

How do vapor absorption systems work?

They use a thermal process involving an absorbent and refrigerant pair.

What's the lifespan of a vapor compression refrigeration system?

It can vary but typically lasts between 10 to 15 years.

Is it easy to find technicians for vapor absorption system repairs?

It may be more challenging due to the system's complexity.

What is the cost difference between these two systems?

Vapor compression systems are usually cheaper than absorption systems.

How does the vapor compression system affect the environment?

Its reliance on electricity can increase greenhouse gas emissions.

Do vapor absorption systems have a lower energy efficiency?

Generally, yes, compared to vapor compression systems.

Can vapor absorption systems be used for air conditioning?

Yes, they are used in absorption chillers for air conditioning.

Can vapor compression systems be miniaturized for small appliances?

Yes, they are commonly used in small refrigerators and freezers.

Can vapor absorption refrigeration be used in mobile settings?

Yes, particularly in settings like RVs where heat sources are readily available.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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