Homeowners should know all their AC options before making a purchase. In this guide, we’ll list the most common air conditioning options available today and include information about their strengths and ideal applications.
1. Window-Mounted Air Conditioners: Window units are portable and inexpensive. They can be installed in a single- or double-hung window and use horizontally expandable wings to block the remainder of the window and create a seal. They can cool and dehumidify a single room or small zone well. They do tend to be noisy and can create an extra-cool area near the window to which they are mounted. Security is also a concern with window units.
2. Through-the-Wall Air Conditioning:This type of unit requires an opening cut into an exterior wall and frames like a window. Units often include sleeves to create a more precise fit. These units can be installed higher than window units to prevent cold zones and increase security. They are less noisy than a window unit but are still affordable. They are permanent and can produce a draft problem during cold weather.
3. Portable Air Conditioning: Not many homeowners opt for this solution, but it can work well in certain applications. This is an emerging technology that is becoming more affordable. The benefit of this unit is that it can be moved from room to room, allowing a user to take the cold with them. It produces hot air with a flexible vent, not unlike a dryer vent, which must be secured to an open window. They also have a collection tub for condensate water, like a dehumidifier. If the tub is full, the unit will shut down until it is emptied.
4. Central Air Conditioning: This is by far the most popular and comfortable choice. They are sometimes called split systems because the condensing unit is located outside the structure and the air handler or furnace, along with the indoor coil, is located inside. Central AC is an affordable way to cool an entire building, or at least a large zone. Residential units can cool up to 5.0 tons of air, which is enough to cool approximately 3,000 to 4,000 square feet, depending on the layout and construction of the structure as well as the climate.
This type of unit does require ductwork. Conditioned air is distributed through the ductwork to the rooms or zones. If a building does not have ductwork in place, central air conditioning is not an option.
5. Packaged Air Conditioning: These units are like central air conditioning because they attach to a structure’s ductwork to distribute treated air. The major difference is that they are not a split system and include the entire unit in one large cabinet. This type of unit may be just air conditioning and a blower, or it may include a heat source.
6. Ductless Air Conditioning: Often called mini-split systems, these units feature a small condensing unit outside the building. Inside, there is a wall- or ceiling-mounted “head” or blower connected to the condenser with refrigerant lines. The blower is typically mounted high on a wall to provide more balanced cooling throughout the room. The air direction can often be adjusted, sometimes with a handheld remote controller. These units work well in single rooms or zones. They do cost more than wall units but less than CAC systems. They are efficient, quiet and easy to install.