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What is Climate Control?

Michelle Naranjo
by Michelle Naranjo
November 8, 2009

Following the popularization of the automobile a demand was created to allow for comfortable vehicle trips in spite of extreme temperatures. Using mechanical methods that are shared with today's vehicles, the first heater units were incorporated with automobiles in the 1920s. Air conditioning followed only a decade later but didn't gain favor in personal vehicles until the late 1950s luxury cars. Customizing the sensation of hot or cold inside a vehicle, climate control offers drivers and passengers this privilege.

Once established as an accompaniment to luxury motoring, climate control lends the pleasure in driving can be rewarded to even the most affordable vehicles. While a heater in an automobile is hardly a luxury item during a cold, winter day, the increase of having air conditioning as a standard feature on modern vehicles has sparred on climate control importance. Climate control not only provides for manipulation of heat and cooling, other functions can dictate the direction of airflow or activate the windshield defroster.

Accustomed to almost every driver, the climate control system operation can conveniently be located within the center of the dashboard beneath the radio receiver. A set of simple knobs or buttons that is taken for granted in modern vehicles, control of heater and air conditioning units on earlier vehicles did not adapt the ease of use found with climate control. One example rests in the first application of air conditioning in the 1939 Packard. Absent an on/off switch or any other climate control amenities, the only way to activate the Packard system was to open the engine cover and fasten a rubber belt to the compressor unit.

With knobs, buttons, and switches being the basis for all vehicles produced through the past 60 years, integrated control computer system as such BMW's iDrive and Mercedes-Benz's Comand includes the array of automatic climate control features within an accessible menu. the advent of multi-zone climate control systems simple switches can be found within reach.

Granting control to vehicle occupants in balancing cabin temperature, climate control can be employed in either a manual or automatic setup. With manual climate control, the driver and/or passengers set the amount of heating and cooling being filtered into the vehicle's interior. Though effective the system sends only a consistent flow of temperate air which needs to be overridden by user interaction.

Automatic climate control enlists sensors to maintain a targeted temperature. Now running through the vehicle's on-board computer, heater and air conditioning units will be turned activated without the need for driver input. Debuting on Cadillacs for the 1964 model year, automatic climate control systems are now far more mainstream in current model vehicles.

Relatively new to automobiles is zoning climate control. The system divides the vehicle's cabin into dedicated areas that are given their own set of controls. Basic multi-zone climate control allows the front driver and passenger sections to be controlled independently. Luxury vehicles have now expanded to include dedicated climate control to rear passengers. In the Lexus LS 600h L, a four-zone system allows temperature control for each corner of the interior.

Climate control systems found in a majority of new vehicles now utilizing much cleaner air through the use of pollen and pollution-neutralizing filters. Automatic Air Recirculation used by BMW also involves a sensor that will monitor the levels of pollution, shutting off air intakes when air pollutants are detected at certain levels.

Another potential change for climate control may exist in the source for changing temperatures. Since the coolant system for internal combustion engines are the main generator for current climate control equipment, electric powered or even plug-in hybrid vehicles will need to adopt a new approach. While all electrical units are the viable alternative, some researchers believe future sound waves could someday be modulated to impact temperature.


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