The Inside Scoop

On a Scroll

"Scroll technology" is the latest buzzword in the world of refrigeration and air-conditioning. That's because scroll compressors run quieter and use less energy than the piston-driven compressors that had been the norm. And as with most good ideas, this one is utterly simple.

The heart of the mechanism is two identical spiral-shaped scrolls, like the ones above, that fit one inside the other. Oneis stationary, the other is attached to an electric motor. The eccentric motion of the motor means the scrolls are in contact with each other at all times, but only at discrete points. Refrigerant gas trapped in the gaps between those points is pushed from the outside of the spiral into its center. compressing the gas so it can be cooled more easily.

Another virtue of scroll compressors is that they actually work better over time. As the scrolls wear down, they fit together more tightly and allow less gas to escape.

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