The global refrigeration compressor market

Bien que pénalisé par la pandémie de Covid-19 qui a fortement impacté le secteur du conditionnement d’air, le marché des compresseurs a progressé dans certains domaines tels que la chaîne du froid, l’industrie pharmaceutique et les centres de données. 

The refrigeration compressor market, whose global figures for 2020 have just been published by JARN, is a good illustration of the trends in the refrigeration equipment market as a whole. 

These figures show that the Covid-19 pandemic first impacted the domestic and commercial air conditioning markets, particularly in emerging areas such as China, India, Southeast Asia and Latin America. On the other hand, the commercial and industrial refrigeration markets were less affected by the pandemic and strong demand was even observed in pharmaceutical and vaccine cold chain segment in particular. 


Overall, sales of refrigeration compressors were down 6.5% in 2020 compared to 2019. The trends by compressor type (ranked by decreasing market share) are as follows: 


Rotary compressors


Rotary compressors are widely used in room and packaged air conditioners, chillers, air-to-water heat pumps and even other refrigeration applications. They have advantages in terms of cost and their good part-load efficiency are gradually demonstrating a strong competitiveness.  

The global market for rotary compressor amounted to 194,3 million units, showing a 8.2% year-on-year decline in 2020. Production of rotary compressors is concentrated in Asia, especially in China (90% of the production volume). Demand for rotary compressors in China fell by 7.8% in 2020, reaching 154.1 million units. Exports reached about 30 million units, down by about 4%.  

Technical trends related to rotary compressors include higher efficiency, smaller compressor size, expanded capacity (thanks to advanced twin- and triple-rotary compressor technology), strong heating ability in cold climates thanks to air-to-water heat pumps, and more sophisticated direct current inverters. China has made impressive gains in the use of inverter room air-conditioners, reaching a rate of almost 65%.  


Reciprocating compressors


Reciprocating compressors – divided into hermetic, semi-hermetic and open type compressors – have a long history and a wide range of applications. The use of reciprocating compressors has been decreasing gradually in the air conditioning industry, in parallel with the increasing use of screw, scroll and even rotary compressors. This is partly due to their higher initial and maintenance costs. However, sales in other refrigeration applications have continued to rise year after year. In particular, growth was seen in cold storage applications in 2019.  


  • Hermetic reciprocating compressors are used in residential and light commercial refrigeration for air conditioning and other refrigeration applications. The corresponding global market reached 20.9 million units in 2020, up 5.4% from 2019.
  • Semi-hermetic reciprocating compressors are mainly used in commercial air conditioning and in other commercial and industial refrigeration applications. Global demand for this type of compressors was approximately 573.000 units in 2020, a year-on year increase of 8.0%.  


Scroll compressors


Scroll compressors can be used in a broad range of applications, including air conditioning, air-to-water heat pumps and refrigeration systems such as freezers. 

In 2020, the scroll compressors market dropped by 2.3%, reaching 14.7 million units. This market is dominated by the United States, where sales amounted to 9.18 million units, up 5.5% while sales in China fell by 19.5% to 2.92 million units.  

Larger cooling capacity, development of inverter technology and broader use in heat pumps are the main trends for scroll compressors. 


Screw compressors


Screw compressors, introduced in the 1950s, are mainly used in air conditioning. 

In 2020, global demand for screw compressors amounted to 121,000 units, down 5.9%. China (49%), the United States (18%) and Europe (17%) are the main markets. 

The use of screw compressors in refrigeration applications other than air conditioning is increasing as evidenced by the strong growth in corresponding sales in China (+ 11.2%) linked to the ramp-up of cold chain equipment (+ 15.5%).


Centrifugal compressors


Most centrifugal compressors are used for chiller applications. By adopting multi-stage and inverter technologies, the efficiency of these compressors has been improved. With oil-free and modularization technologies, centrifugal compressors can flexibly meet various requirements. 

The world market for centrifugal compressor amounted to 17,200 units in 2020, a year-on-year decrease of 6.8%. This decrease is mainly due to the suspension or postponement of large-scale commercial projects in many countries. 

However, the market for oil-free magnetic bearing centrifugal compressor increased by 2.7% over the same period, boosted by the demand in the data center and pharmaceutical industries. 



JARN, Special Issue “World Compressor Market – Update 2021”, March 25, 2021