Control of temperature, humidity, purity, and motion of air in an enclosed space, independent of outside conditions. In a self-contained air-conditioning unit, air is heated in a boiler unit or cooled by being blown across a refrigerant-filled coil and then distributed to a controlled indoor environment. Central air-conditioning in a large building generally consists of a main plant located on the roof or mechanical floor and intermittently spaced air-handling units, or fans that deliver air through ducts to zones within the building. The air then returns to the central air-conditioning machinery through spaces called plenums to be recooled (or reheated) and recirculated. Alternate systems of cooling use chilled water, with water cooled by a refrigerant at a central location and circulated by pumps to units with fans that circulate air locally.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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