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What is a Ductless System- Heating and Cooling Systems Explained

What Is a Ductless System?

A ductless air conditioning system is an energy-efficient system that can cool (or heat) rooms and zones of a home without needing ductwork. Ductless systems provide a suitable AC option for homes that don’t have the space for ducts or for homeowners who’d rather not tear up their walls to install ducts.

 

How Ductless Systems Operate

Similar to ducted, split central air conditioners, ductless systems also consist of an indoor air handling component and an outdoor component housing the compressor and condenser unit. However, instead of just one large air handler unit tucked away inside a closet, crawl space, or attic, ductless systems have multiple air handlers installed in different rooms of the house mounted on the wall. These individual air handlers operate similar to a window unit, where each one can be regulated to a different temperature.

The indoor and outdoor components are linked with copper tubing that passes through a small hole in the wall. Similar to split air conditioners, refrigerant travels through tubing to the indoor air handler(s), where the evaporator coil pulls the heat from the air leaving cool air which is blown into the room. The refrigerant, in vapor form, is then transferred to the condenser coil in the outside unit where it is changed back into liquid form.

Ductless systems were originally developed by a Japanese manufacturer in the 1970s and are predominantly used in Asia and Europe, but they have recently gained in popularity in the U.S. due to their energy-efficient capabilities. The ductless air conditioner was designed to be an improved version of the window unit, where it could provide localized cooling to homes and buildings where a larger, central air-type system was not an option due to building size or financial constraints. Providing greater efficiency than window units, the ductless system offers air comfort variability that can be controlled individually, room-by-room, which enhances its appeal as it gives all family members more control over their own comfort.

 

 

Pros and Cons of a Ductless Unit

Pros

  • Ductless systems are very energy efficient due to the fact that they’re smaller so they use less energy to operate and because there are no ducts. An average home with a central air conditioning system can have an energy loss of 25% to 30% just from their ductwork. Ductless systems also have technologically advanced components such as an inverter-driven compressor, which allows the system to speed up and slow down as needed instead of shutting down completely. Other types of systems consume a lot of energy just on start-up alone.
  • Installation of ductless systems is easier and less complicated than ducted systems. The factory puts together most of the components of a ductless and not having to deal with ducts makes the installation process one where there are fewer chances for mistakes to occur.
  • Faster cooling – since there are no ducts for the air to travel through to reach its destination, ductless systems can cool a room much quicker since the air handler unit is already in the room.
  • Zoned cooling -each indoor unit of a ductless system has its own thermostat allowing that room’s temperature to be individually controlled. No need to cool a room that’s empty – just turn the unit in that room off. Plus, family members get to choose the temperature that is most comfortable to them.
  • Reliability – ductless systems have gained a reputation for being reliable and maintenance friendly. Also, without ducts, potential problems such as leaks, debris, or build-up which can clog air flow and reduce efficiency are not a concern.

Cons

  • Ductless systems are expensive. For a single-room installation, a ductless air conditioner will cost you several times more than a standard, comparable window unit. Compared to an air conditioning system for an entire home, such as a ducted central air conditioner, a ductless system will typically be more expensive than a similar capacity unit. And, if you are replacing your ducted central air system with a ductless system, the cost could be two to three times more expensive than replacing it with another ducted system.
  • Maintaining a ductless system can be cumbersome as each unit’s filter will need to be washed monthly, or more frequently if there are pets or a smoker in the house. Skipping this important step could shorten the life of your system.
  • Ductless systems are primarily used for spot-cooling rooms in an average-sized house and are not really ideal or cost-effective for cooling an entire building.
  • The indoor component of a ductless system may not be aesthetically pleasing to some, and they typically come in only standard white or beige colors, jut out from the wall, and cannot be covered.

Ductless System Set-Up

The outdoor component of a ductless air conditioning system can be installed on a concrete slab in a shaded area on the side or back of the house and unobstructed from shrubbery. The exterior unit can also be attached to the outside wall of the house with mounting brackets. With this type of installation, it’s important to have plenty of clearance, at least 4 inches, between the wall and the unit, and at least 20 inches of clearance above the unit.

Interior components of a ductless system are typically mounted high on an interior wall of the room it’s cooling. It should be centrally located in the room for even distribution of the cooled air. For less obtrusive locations inside a room, ductless interior units can also be placed recessed in the ceiling or near the floor. The indoor unit should be installed no more than 50 feet away from the outdoor unit.

 

Cost of Operating and Maintaining a Ductless System

The upfront cost of your ductless system will depend on the size of your home and how many units it will require –  either one, two, or perhaps four or more. The more units required, the more the initial cost will be. There are also other factors which can affect the cost of a ductless system such as brand, the amount of cooling needed, system features and capabilities, integrated technology, and air conditioning support and services.

The high costs of ductless air conditioners can sometimes scare consumers away, but rebates and tax incentives are often available as they are energy-efficient systems. Plus, the initial costs are likely to be recouped before too long since ductless air conditioners, which have SEER ratings up to 26, are one of the most efficient and cost-saving air conditioning systems available. Ductless air conditioners use up to 30% – 50% less energy than central air systems so their overall operational costs are lower. Maintenance costs for ductless systems also tend to be lower than that for other systems, and with proper care and maintenance a ductless system should last for over 20 years.

 

Is a Ductless Air Conditioning System the Best Choice for Your Climate?

Ductless systems are a great option for most climates as they can provide individual heating and cooling effectively and efficiently. However, for those regions that reach extremely high temperatures and humidity levels in the summer, a ductless air conditioner may have difficulty cooling your home on some of those hotter days. Also, ductless systems are not as good as central air systems at removing moisture from the air so for those who live in a very humid climate, a ducted system may be a better option.

 

What Is the Difference Between a Ductless System and Other Types of Systems?

Ductless air conditioners resemble window units in that each are designed to cool one room. The similarity pretty much ends there as ductless systems are much more efficient than window units, don’t block the sunlight by taking up space in a window, and don’t pose a security risk as window units can easily be removed. Window units are still the cheapest and easiest air conditioners to install, though.

Compared to ducted air conditioning systems, such as split and packaged AC units, ductless systems work in a similar way to cool the home with the use of a compressor, evaporator coil, condensing coil, refrigerant, and blower. However, the cool air is delivered directly into each room through separate air handler units installed on the walls of each room instead of the cooled air reaching the room through a network of ducts. Not having ducts makes for much easier installation and maintenance for ductless systems, as well as improved efficiency and less dust in the air as there are no ducts on which it can collect.

Ductless systems come with a hand-held remote that controls just that one individual unit. With the remote, you can turn the AC system off and on, choose heat or cool, set the thermostat, and control the air speed. If you have multiple units in your home, then a programmable thermostat will allow you to pre-program your desired temperature settings and start/end times for all of the connected units.

Naturally, with the internet of things (IOT), there are smart thermostats available for ductless systems as well that can preheat or precool your home before you get home, monitor the temperature of your home, even while you’re away, adjust the temperature according to weather systems, and work with other applications for multiple features and benefits.

Ductless air conditioning systems are a great alternative to the ducted options and with their temperature variability control and energy-efficiency, they are an excellent choice for many consumers. However, your AC contractor may still advise you to get a ducted system if you already have ducts installed, are concerned with controlling the humidity, or want better air flow throughout your home, which a network of ducts help provide.

If you’re in a new house without any ducts already installed, then you will have the choice of which type of air conditioning will work best for you and your home. To learn more about the most common types of systems, click here. If you’re ready to shop for your new system and want to save thousands by shopping online, click here.

What is a Split System – Heating and Cooling Systems Explained

What Is a Split System?

The most common type of central air conditioning system used in the U.S. is the “split” type of system. It’s called a “split” system because it’s comprised of two main components, one located inside the home and one located outside the home. The interior component, also known as the air handler, has a blower and evaporator coil to distribute cool air through the ducts of the home, and the outside unit houses a compressor and condensing coil which pumps refrigerant into the system.

A split air condition system uses electricity as it power source and utilizes the ducts in a home to distribute cool air and warm air when needed. Using the same network of ducts for both heating and cooling makes the split system one of the most efficient types of air conditioning systems available.

To learn more about other types of systems, click here. 

You can also watch this system explainer video which contains a condensed overview:

 

How a Split Air Conditioning System Operates

The compressor, which is housed in the outdoor metal cabinet, is a motorized unit that pumps a liquid coolant through pipes (also known as “refrigerant lines”) to the interior unit, where it then removes heat and moisture from the home. It does this through a process called phase conversion, where warm air blows over the evaporator coil causing the liquid refrigerant to change from a liquid state to a gaseous state (vapor). When a substance changes from a liquid to a gas, a unique result is the removal of heat from the air. Within the air handler, the cooler air is then blown through the vents into the home while the vapor is transferred back to the outside air conditioning unit where the condenser coil changes it back to a liquid and the process begins all over again.

Air conditioning has come a long way since a young engineer named Willis Carrier invented the first air modern air conditioning unit in 1902. While working for a printing press, Carrier was asked to solve the humidity problem in the plant, which was causing the pages of the magazines wrinkle and curl up at the edges. The system he designed controlled the humidity by sending air over water-cooled coils. Recognizing the usefulness of his invention, he went on to form his own company which focused on developing and improving the air conditioning system.

Today, air conditioning is considered an essential part of modern living allowing us to remain cool in our homes, places of work, restaurants, schools, hospitals, etc. Air conditioning has become an important and integral part of our everyday lives. In fact, Americans consume more energy each year running air conditioners than the rest of the world combined. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, nearly 6% of all the electricity produced in the United States is used by air conditioners, costing homeowners almost $30 billion in annual costs and producing nearly 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in the air each year.

This is why energy standards have been adapted for manufacturers to produce more energy-efficient appliances and air conditioning units. The air conditioners manufactured today are 50% more efficient than those produced just ten years ago, saving consumers millions of dollars and reducing the amount of harmful pollutants being released into the environment.

Split air conditioning systems are one of the most energy efficient systems you can find. With SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) values ranging in the high 20s, split systems are a great choice for the environmentally and budget-conscious consumer.

The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute also has a number of resources to help homeowners understand their systems here. 

 

Split Air Conditioning Installation

The most important aspect of the split AC system is the installation. If it’s done properly, your system will perform at its optimum level, but if it is not installed properly, then the result could be higher utility bills, frequent maintenance problems, and uneven cooling. Before installing the two parts of a split air conditioning system, first it must be determined where the inside component should be located. Typically, the indoor unit is placed in a closet or cabinet, but if neither of those is available, then another space must be used.

 

Attic Installation

Some interior units of a split system are housed in the attic. There are many contractors, however, who believe installing the air handler in the attic is not the best idea as attics are typically not air conditioned and, therefore, get very hot in the summer. This can affect the efficiency of the indoor unit. Ducts expand and contract with temperature changes and an area with unregulated temperature, such as the attic, could cause leaks and loosening of the duct seals. Additionally, with the indoor unit housed in the attic, one may forget about it and not perform regularly required maintenance, or may not want to if the unit is hard to get to. In older homes where space is limited, there may be no other option than the attic for the location of the indoor unit. In this case, it’s important that the ductwork be properly sealed and insulated and the installation is done by an AC professional.

 

Garage Installation

The garage is a location many people think is ideal for installing the air handler as there is usually plenty of space, it’s not as hot as the attic, and there’s enough room to easily access the unit for repairs. However, there is a case to be made that the garage is probably the worst place for the air handler. Many people use their garages to store items such as pesticides, lawn mowers, paint, and their automobiles that often have the engine running before the garage door opens or closes. This can cause garages to have high levels of carbon monoxide and various other pollutants that contaminate the air, which could be getting sucked into your home through leaks or gaps in the air handler. Poor indoor air quality is a health concern and may result in serious health issues. If the garage is the only place available for your air handler, then it is recommended that it is placed in an insulated and air-sealed closet to reduce contaminants from entering the system. Other actions you should take would be to make sure the duct system is properly sealed and purchase a carbon monoxide monitor for the inside of your home.

 

Crawl Space Installation

Installing the air handler in a crawl space is a popular option as it keeps the unit “out of the way.” However, many crawl spaces are damp and dark and can get hot and humid during the warmer months. Therefore, it’s important to make sure your crawl space in encapsulated and not vented to the outside as this could cause mold growth and reduce air quality, especially if you live in a more humid climate. Installing a dehumidifier in the crawl space is beneficial as well.

 

Basement Installation

Basements are also a place where air handlers can be installed as it offers an “out of sight” location like attics and crawl spaces, although the basement allows for easier access to the unit.

 

How Much Does a Split System Cost?

There are several factors which will affect the cost of an AC unit, but the usual range for installing a new split air conditioning system is between $3,700 and $7,200. The size of your home, whether or not ducts need to be installed, repaired, or replaced, and installation rates are the top determining factors affecting the cost of your new AC system. Also, it’s important to make sure you purchase the right-sized air conditioner for your home. This is where a professional AC contractor is key helping you determine the best AC fit for your needs.

First, the contractor will determine how much cooling power your home will need by performing a load calculation. This measurement takes in account a variety of factors affecting the temperature of your home such as square footage, number and types of windows, how much heat loss your home experiences, insulation levels, whether or not your home is located in the shade, etc. This data is then analyzed to determine how much air your air conditioning system is likely to lose and which system is the best one for efficiently cooling your home.

The climate in which you live is also an important factor that will determine the type of AC unit that will be best for your home. If you live in a hot, humid climate, you will want an air conditioning system that effectively cools and dehumidifies your home. You will also likely want a unit with a higher SEER rating for energy savings as an air conditioner in a state like Florida is going to work a lot harder in the summer than one in a state such as Minnesota. If you live in a drier or milder climate, then a lower-rated SEER model should suffice.

It’s important to make sure your HVAC equipment is sized properly for your home as a system that is too small won’t effectively cool the air, and one that is too large won’t properly remove all the humidity in the air, cause uneven cooling, and increased utility bills.

The SEER number you choose for your split system will also affect the price. Higher-rates SEER units will save you more money each month, but the upfront costs are more expensive than lower SEER models. To learn more about SEER, click here. To find out about SEER minimums where you live view this Seer Mimimums Map.

 

Pros and Cons of Split Air Conditioning Systems

Cons:

  • Split systems are large and bulky with a unit located not only outdoors, but indoors as well. A significant amount of space is needed to house the large, unattractive metal cabinet of the indoor air handling unit and some smaller houses don’t have a lot of space to give up to begin with.
  • Ductwork needs to be installed if not already present and this can be costly. Also, if ductwork is present and was installed years ago, it will likely need to be cleaned, repaired, or even replaced if it is not a good fit for the new air conditioner.
  • Installation is more complicated and tricky with an indoor component, outdoor component, and lengthy network of ducts. There’s more opportunity for something to go wrong or mistakes to occur.
  • The indoor air handling unit may be housed in an area that is difficult to get to and repair.
  • Higher repair costs – with more parts, there’s more that can go wrong.

 

Pros:

  • A consistent temperature is easily maintained and distributed throughout the home with central air conditioning.
  • The AC components are hidden away behind walls, in out-of-the-way-places, or outside.
  • Split systems have more availability of higher SEER rated options for saving even more money and energy than standard models. The U.S. Department of Energy has mandated that a minimum SEER rating of 15 will go into effect for southern states in 2023 (SEER 14 for northern states), but many manufacturers are already producing split system units with SEER ratings as high as 28.
  • Split air conditioning systems are better at removing humidity and cooling larger spaces.

 

 

What Is the Difference Between a Split System and a Ductless System?

A ductless air conditioning system is also split into two parts with an indoor and outdoor component, just like the split central air conditioning system, however, a ductless system does not require ducts. Ductless systems are a great option for those homeowners who don’t have a network of ducts already installed in their home, don’t want to tear up their walls installing ducts, or just don’t have the room for them.

Besides no ducts, this type of system differs from split systems in that instead of one air handler in the home, there are multiple “mini” air handlers which are installed in every room, usually high up on the wall. This type of installation allows for the temperature of each room to be individually controlled by the thermostat on the air handler unit. Therefore, if one person prefers a room temperature of 78 while another prefers their room temperature to be 72, then this system offers that type of temperature control variability.

 

Air Filters & Maintaining Your Split Air Conditioning System

Once you’ve installed your new central AC system, it’s important to perform regular maintenance, service, and repair to extend its life and make sure it operates at maximum efficiency. One of the most important ways to take care of your air conditioner is to replace the filters regularly. The large amount of air traveling through your AC system contains dust, debris, allergens, and pollutants, which is cleaned when pulled through the air filter. If the filter gets dirty and clogged, then the air cannot be cleaned as effectively and air flow is reduced. Clean filters equal clean air, dirty filters… less so. It’s best to check your air filters at least every two weeks and replace them as soon as they look dirty.

 

 

What is a Packaged Unit- Heating and Cooling Systems Explained

If you’re shopping around for a new central air conditioning system, you’ve probably discovered that there are three types of systems from which you can choose: Packaged Units, Split Systems and Ductless. All three systems work equally well and offer energy efficient options and state-of-the-art systems that can help you save money and effectively cool your home. In this article, we’ll discuss the packaged air conditioning system in more depth and whether or not it’s a good option for you. As a rule of thumb, it’s almost always a good idea to stick with the type of system you have – if you have been satisfied with it.

 

What is a Package System?

A packaged unit is a heating and cooling device that has all of its main components (condenser, compressor, and evaporator) combined together in one single, metal-encased “package.” Packaged air conditioners are a great option for homes that don’t have a lot of space for an indoor component. Not to say that a packed unit can’t adequately cool a large home – because it definitely can. Package units tend to be popular in the southeastern regions of the U.S. where homes don’t typically have basements or crawl spaces, but they can be used in any region.

A packaged unit hooks up to a home’s ductwork to pull warm air out of the house and replace it with cool air. The unit is located outside the home usually on a concrete slab next to the house, or, to save even more space, installed on the roof.

 

What Is the Difference Between a Split System and a Packaged Unit?

A split system has some of the air conditioning components located outside the home, such as the fan, compressor, and condenser, and the rest of the components located inside the home, such as the evaporator coil, air handler and blower. The advantage of a split system is that the indoor components are kept in a controlled, non-harsh type of environment and therefore have a longer life-span than if they were located outside. Another advantage is that split systems come in higher energy-efficient options with SEER ratings in the twenties, whereas packaged units typically have 14 SEER or 16 SEER options. The advantages of a packaged unit over a split system are:

  • They are easier to install. All the components of the system are not only housed in one convenient unit, but they are assembled in a factory in a controlled environment where the refrigerant charge and other parts are already in perfect working order. Split systems are more complicated to install, increasing the possibility of installation challenges.
  • They are huge space savers. Without a second, indoor section to install, packaged units are perfect for homes without the extra space.
  • Easier maintenance. All parts are located in one place and conveniently located outside, which makes maintenance and repairs easier.
  • It’s quieter. Since the entire system is located outside, the noise level inside the home is much lower.

 

Types of Package Units

There are several different packaged options to choose from depending on your cooling or heating needs:

Cooling only packaged air conditioner: Electric-power unit with no heating elements for those climates that are typically warm year-round.

Packaged air conditioner with heat: Electric-powered air conditioner that also has a heating element. Electricity heats up the element warming the air that flows over it. This warm air moves through the ducts to raise the temperature inside your home. This type of system is common in warmer climates where the heat is used only occasionally.

Packaged gas/electric systems: This type of system offers high-efficiency electric air conditioning during the warmer months and the efficiency of a gas furnace for heating during the cooler months. These are common in colder regions as gas heat is an energy efficient way of heating a home. Do you have gas or electric? You can learn more by using the instant low price quote tool here. 

Gas and Electric Package Units

Packaged heat pumps: A heat pump moves warm air from outside the home to inside the home during cooler months, and then, reversing the cycle, moves warm air from inside the home to outside when cooler temperatures are desired inside. Powered by electricity, heat pumps move warm air around instead of generating heat which makes them particularly energy efficient. Heat pumps work best in moderate to mild climates.

Dual fuel heat pump (heat pump and gas furnace): Utilizing the heat pump to pull heat from the outside air to warm your home, the furnace part of this system doesn’t kick on until it’s around 35 degrees or less outside, making it a very energy efficient system, perfect for cold climates.

Electric furnace and heat pump: Similar to the heat pump plus gas furnace system, the heat pump does the majority of the air cooling and heating here as well, with a backup electric furnace that kicks on only when there is not enough heat in the air for the heat pump to sufficiently warm the home.

 

What type of air conditioning system is best for your regional climate?

It’s not just whether your climate is mostly warm or mostly cold, but also whether you have more of a dry climate as opposed to a humid climate that will affect the type of air conditioning system that will work best for you.

Packaged air conditioning systems are a great option for cooling your home, however, if you happen to live in a warm, humid climate like Florida, you may discover that split system air conditioners are more common. This is due to several factors: 1) an air conditioner in a hot, humid climate is going to work a lot harder to keep a home cool than one in a milder climate, so having a high energy-efficient unit is important. Split systems come with higher SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) ratings than packaged units do, making them the preferred system for many due to their higher efficiency options; and, 2) split systems do a better job of dehumidifying a home than packaged units do, and a less humid home is a more comfortable home.

For drier climates, such as Las Vegas, packaged units that combine electric air conditioning with a gas furnace for heating are an excellent option. Also, packaged systems that combine a heat pump with a gas furnace are popular in drier climates as the heat pump is highly energy efficient because it moves warm air around to cool and heat rather than using energy to generate heat.

The heat pump plus gas furnace system is also common in colder climates as using natural gas or propane to heat a home is an energy efficient solution many northern homes employ. Similarly, the electric furnace and heat pump is frequently used in colder climates as well.

 

System Components of a Packaged Air Conditioner

When purchasing a packaged air conditioner, it’s useful to know the various components within that make it work. This way you’ll be able to “talk shop” with the contractor who is installing it and better understand how to perform maintenance on it.

The main components of a packaged AC unit are:

  • Fan for moving air through the system
  • Evaporator coils that cause the refrigerant to evaporate into gas thereby removing heat and moisture from the air
  • A compressor pumps the refrigerant between the evaporator coil and condenser coil
  • Condenser coil that removes heat from refrigerant vapor converting into liquid form
  • Refrigerant lines contain the refrigerant traveling between coils

 

Maintenance Tips for Your Packaged Unit

Knowing the components of your packaged air conditioning system, how they work, and potential problems they may encounter that could affect your system’s performance will help you stay on top of maintaining your unit, which will go a long way in extending the life of your system. The compressor, for example, is the heart of an air conditioner and if this important (and expensive) component breaks down, you may find yourself opting to just purchase a whole new system.

 

What does a compressor in a packaged unit do?

The compressor, powered by a motor, compresses refrigerant into a high-pressure gas and forces it into the condenser coil where its heat is released and the refrigerant condenses into a liquid. The liquid refrigerant is then pumped into the evaporator coil where it evaporates into a gas (vapor), and in doing so, removes heat and moisture from the air. As a gas, the refrigerant returns to the compressor where the whole cycle begins again. Common causes of compressor malfunctions are dirty and gummed-up condenser coils, blocked refrigerant lines, contaminants in the system (such as dirt, debris, moisture, leaves, etc.), and inadequate lubricant levels can cause serious problems for the compressor.

Routine maintenance by a licensed professional is key in maintaining an efficiently-running system with a long life ahead of it. Besides routine maintenance, it’s important that you don’t delay when it comes to repairs. If you hear an unusual knocking, rattling, grinding, or rumbling sound, call your repairman immediately before even more damage is done. Finally, don’t forget to replace the filters regularly, especially during the summer months when your air conditioner is working overtime.

Since your air conditioner plays such an important part of keeping you comfortable in your home and considering it’s one of the largest expenditures on your utility bill, purchasing a new AC system should be thoroughly researched so you can make the best decision for your home and budget. Understanding the benefits of a packaged air conditioning system, how it works to cool (or heat) your home, and how to take care of it will help you have a long and enjoyable experience with your packaged air conditioning system.

To learn more about the heating and cooling options available to you, click here. 

Heating and Cooling Systems Explained- Your Best Guide to the 3 Types

When you’re in the market for a new air-conditioning or heating system and trying to determine which of the heating and cooling systems is the best for your home, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the number of different options, types of systems and selections available. If only there was one place that easily explained the main types. Well, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we are going to provide an overview of the three main categories of heating and cooling systems and discuss in detail the differences and benefits of each in order to help you make the best decision for your home, your budget, and your lifestyle.

 

Overview of the three main types of air conditioning systems

The three most common types of air conditioning systems are split systems, package systems, and ductless systems. Split systems are the most popular type of air conditioners found in U.S. homes. Just as its name implies, this system is “split” into two main components with one part located inside the home and the other housed outside the home in a metal container. The indoor component is connected to a network of ducts and uses a blower to circulate cooled air throughout the various rooms of the home. The outside component contains a condenser coil and a compressor, which pumps the refrigerant into the system.

A packaged unit works just as a split system does by moving cooled air through a network of ducts, however, instead of an indoor and outdoor unit, the evaporator coil, condenser, and compressor are all housed together in one metal-encased “package” that’s usually located outside the home.

Ductless systems, also known as “split ductless” systems, provide cooling similar to central air conditioning systems only without the use of ducts. These types of systems have an outside component with a condenser that circulates refrigerant via tubing to indoor blower units located in separate rooms. This type of system is particularly useful for homes that don’t or can’t install ducts.

Each of these air conditioning systems are effective in cooling homes during the warmer months of the years, but looking a little more closely at each will help you determine which system is the best one for your home.

Click here to watch the PriceFixer explainer video of the three types of heating and cooling systems. It can be super helpful to see a visual description of each!

 

What is a Split System?

A split system has an outdoor component with a compressor that pumps a liquid refrigerant through copper pipes (refrigeration lines) to the indoor component. The indoor component, usually located in a closet, crawl space, or attic, contains an evaporator coil that absorbs heat from the air, thereby cooling and dehumidifying it. Using a blower, also known as an air handler, this cooled air is then pushed into multiple areas of the home via a system of ducts and vents effectively lowering the interior air temperature. Simultaneously, warm air is being drawn out of the rooms through return air ducts.

The heat that was absorbed by the evaporator coil is then pumped back out (as a vapor) to the exterior unit that houses the compressor and condensing unit where it is it condensed into a liquid state so the cooling cycle can start all over again.

Split System explainer

Split System Pros:

  • Since half of the AC system resides indoors, its interior components are protected from harsh weather conditions, which will prolong their life. As long as you change the filter regularly and perform routine maintenance, the evaporator coil and fan should last a long time.
  • Higher energy efficiency options. Split systems come in a wider range of SEER ratings, going as high as 18 SEER and above, which means superior energy savings.

Split System Cons:

  • Larger system takes up a lot of space.
  • More complicated installation – with two separate components, indoor and outdoor, the chances of faulty installation doubles. Incorrect installation will reduce a split system’s efficiency and its life span.
  • More difficult to repair as there is an outdoor and indoor section, the latter oftentimes being in tight or hard to reach places.

 

What is a Packaged System?

With all of the main air conditioning components conveniently housed together in a single casing, a packaged unit operates in the exact same way as a split unit does, with the transference of a refrigerant between the evaporator coil and condensing coil, delivering cooled air via ducts throughout the home. Typically located outside next to the house on a concrete slab, or on the roof of a house, packaged units are much smaller than split systems and are an excellent option for space-challenged or smaller abodes.

Split systems and packaged units are what’s known as “central” air conditioning systems because they use a network of ducts, typically hidden behind walls, under floors, or above the ceilings, to circulate cool air throughout the home. The ducts are made of sheet metal and conveniently work with furnaces and heaters to distribute warm air throughout the home as well.

Package Unit

Packaged Unit Pros:

  • All components are already factory-assembled and tested which allows for easy installation and proper functioning once its installed.
  • Smaller size takes up less room. Packaged units can even be installed on some roofs, for extra space saving options.
  • All of the components are located in one place which makes it easy for maintenance and repairs.
  • A quieter home – since there is no indoor component, your peace and quiet inside the home won’t be disturbed. The air handlers of some older split systems could develop annoying noises over time.

Packaged Unit Cons:

  • All of the sensitive electronic components are located outside exposed to a harsh environment. Exposure to the elements could cause rust, damage, or other problems that could hinder the operation of the unit. Also, curious animals often burrow or chew their way into the unit causing damage as well, which leads to a life span that is likely to be shorter than that of a split system.
  • Lower SEER options. Packaged units don’t offer high SEER options like split systems do, but rather only go up to 16 SEER.

What is a Ductless System?

A ductless air conditioning system cools your home in a similar fashion as a ducted, central air conditioning system, only without the ducts. It does this by having an outdoor unit pull heat from inside your home while indoor air handlers, typically mounted high on the wall of a room, blow cool air into each individual room. Just like a split, central air conditioning system, a ductless system has an outdoor component that contains a condenser, compressor, and evaporator. Unlike the split, central AC system, however, instead of one air handler tucked away in a closet, smaller, individual air handlers are installed in individual rooms and the air temperature of each room is controlled by the air handler unit in that room. Connected to the outside component by cables and refrigerant lines that only require a small hole in the wall to pass through, the air handlers are able to effectively distribute cooled air without the need for ducts. Ductless systems are also capable of distributing warm air.

Ductless systems are growing in popularity and are a great option for homes that don’t have ducts already installed and the idea of tearing up the walls to install them is undesirable, or if a home simply doesn’t have the space to install them. A great benefit of ductless systems is that they avoid the energy loss typically associated with ducted systems. More than 30% of energy can be lost due to ducts, especially if they are in an unconditioned area, like the attic. Ductless systems also have the added benefit of individualized air control for each room; if one person prefers a room temperature of 78 while another person prefers their room temperature to be 72, then this system offers that type of flexibility. Ductless systems do tend to be more expensive than central air conditioning systems, but avoiding the cost of installing ductwork would lighten the expense.

Ductless System Explained

Ductless system pros:

  • No ducts required
  • Extremely energy efficient
  • Flexible air temperature control for individual rooms
  • Easier to install than larger, central air split systems with connecting ducts
  • Less dust as there are no ducts, which collect dust that gets circulated through the air

Ductless system cons:

  • More expensive than traditional AC systems
  • Air handler mounted on wall may look obtrusive
  • Installation more expensive as each indoor unit must be correctly sized and placed

 

Check out the video overview of three types of systems.

 

Now that you know what they are, where can they be located within your home or business?

Of course, a certified professional contractor can help you determine the best location for your new air conditioning system, but listed below are the common locations for each type of system. 

Common locations of Split Systems

To avoid extra long ducting, which could reduce efficiency, it’s best to install the indoor unit in a central location within the home. Some common places include utility closets or an enclosed space within the garage. Putting the air handler in the attic is not ideal as that area is prone to extreme heat and reaching the system for repairs or to change the filter may be difficult. For the outside component, it’s best to place it in an area that avoids direct sunlight and has plenty of clearance on all sides, with two to three feet of space on all sides and five feet or more of unobstructed space above the unit.

There are 5 areas within the home where the unit could be oriented.

  1. Attic
  2. Garage
  3. Crawlspace
  4. Basement
  5. Closet

Common locations of Package Units

Just like the outdoor component of split systems, packaged units should be installed outside the home in an area with plenty of clearance on all sides. Common locations include placing the unit on a concrete slab near the foundation of the house, or, if space is really limited, packaged units can be installed on some roof types, freeing up more yard space.

Common locations of Ductless System

The air handlers placed indoors are compact and sleek looking and their design can be aesthetically pleasing. Additionally, they can be mounted in a variety of locations such as on the wall just above eye level, in the ceiling, and near the floor.

 

Lifespan Comparisons

Extreme weather conditions will of course affect the life span and operational efficiency of any type of air conditioning system, as well a lack of proper maintenance, but under typical U.S. weather conditions and routine maintenance, the lifespan of a packaged unit is around 12-15 years. The life span of a split system is around 15 years, a bit longer than that of a packaged unit due to half of the system being located indoors in a controlled environment. The average life span for a ductless system is 20 years, as the lack of ducts also means a lack of dust, dirt and debris collecting within them that could potentially damage important system components.

 

Clear signs it’s time to replace your air conditioner

Now that you’re more educated about the different types of heating and cooling systems available, you can make a smart decision about the best option for your home when it comes time for you to replace your current system. How will you know when it’s the right time to replace your old AC unit? There are several key indicators you should be on the lookout for that will let you know when it’s time to throw in the towel and get yourself a new air conditioner. Remember, if you keep putting money into repairing an older unit, you will be losing out on the cost saving features that today’s newer, more energy efficient models provide. 

  1. Your air conditioner is over ten years old. Even if it could go another five years, the savings you’d see with a newer, more energy efficient system makes it worth your while to replace the older unit now.
  2. High repair cost. If you’re facing an expensive repair, it makes sense to put that money towards a newer, more efficient unit instead which will save you money on your utility bill.
  3. Repairs aren’t expensive but they’re frequent? If your AC unit is constantly breaking down then those small repairs can start to add up. Save yourself the aggravation and invest in a new unit.
  4. Your air conditioner still uses R 22 Freon. Not only is this hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFCs) one of the worst pollutants and ozone-depleting substances in existence, but it is being phased out by the government to conserve energy and protect the environment. All air conditioners will eventually switch over to only using the new R410A refrigerant; help the environment and replace your old unit now.
  5. Loud noises. Rattling, shaking, grinding, clicking and general cacophony are sure signs your air conditioner is in distress. Newer models are much more technologically advanced resulting is quieter operation and better comfort.
  6. Excessive dust. If you see a lot of dust in your home, even after cleaning, it could indicate a leak in your ductwork. Leaks in the ducts cause the system to work harder and less efficiently, increasing your operating costs.
  7. Diminished air flow. If there is little to no cool air blowing out of the vent, then there’s likely a problem with the compressor.
  8. Hot spots or difficulty keeping your home cool. This could be a sign of an improperly sized system or an aging air conditioner. Either way, an air conditioner should adequately cool your home, if it doesn’t, then replace it with one that does.
  9. Your monthly utility bills have dramatically increased. If your energy consumption has spiked and there’s no obvious reason why, then the culprit could be an inefficiently operating heating or cooling unit that’s nearing the end of its working life.

 

Conclusion

So, you’ve decided to purchase a new HVAC system – aren’t you glad you read this article? You are now well-informed about the options available to you that will help you choose the perfect system for your home. Let’s review:

The three main types of air conditioning systems are:

  1. Split Systems
  2. Packaged Units
  3. Ductless Systems

Split systems and packaged units are both known as central air conditioning systems because they force air through a network of ducts to distribute cooled air evenly, and “centrally,” throughout the home. The difference between a split system and a packaged unit is the split system is much larger and has an indoor component and an outdoor component. Packaged units take up less space as the main components are combined into one convenient “package” located outdoors.

A ductless system provides cooling for the home with multiple air handler units installed in individual rooms and does not require the use of ducts.

Ductless systems and central air conditioning systems are both excellent choices for cooling a home. Not sure which type of system is right for you? Here’s a look at the pros and cons of a “forced-air” system (central air) and a ductless system:

Central air conditioning pros:  

  • Effective and efficient cooling of your home, particularly large spaces
  • Ducted systems are better at controlling humidity levels
  • Better air circulation throughout the home
  • Cleaner air due to the use of air filters which remove airborne particles and pollutants
  • Combined heating and cooling; the ducts used for cooling can also be used for heating
  • High SEER rated units available
  • No obtrusive air handlers; ducts are hidden behind the walls and vents are inconspicuous which is aesthetically pleasing to some
  • Easier maintenance; a ducted system has just one outdoor component and one air handler, unlike ductless systems which have an outdoor component and multiple air handlers, each of which require maintenance.

Central air conditioning cons: 

  • Ducts are necessary and must be installed if not already present
  • Installation can be complicated and expensive
  • Moving air through ducts causes an energy loss of 30% or more
  • Ducts collect dust and debris and need to be cleaned regularly
  • Improper filter maintenance can spread dust and airborne particles through the air
  • Blocked or partially obstructed vents can cause uneven cooling and heating
  • Can be noisy as the air moves through the vents

Ductless systems pros:

  • Quick and easy to install
  • Ideal for homes with no ductwork
  • More energy efficient than ducted systems since there is no energy loss moving air through ducts
  • Individualized temperature control for each room allows for zoning capabilities which improves energy efficiency
  • Improved indoor air quality – since there are no ducts to collect and spread dust, pollen, and allergens
  • Low noise – with no air traveling through ducts and quiet air handling units, ductless systems are very quiet

Ductless systems cons:

  • More expensive than traditional central air systems
  • Reduced air flow and air circulation – since individual air handlers cool separate rooms, there is less overall air movement throughout the home sometimes leading to stagnant air
  • Less effective humidity control – air handlers in ductless systems do not remove the moisture from the air as well as central air systems do
  • Air handler units mounted on walls – some may find the units don’t fit with their design aesthetic
  • Multiple air handlers mean more parts that need service

When choosing an air conditioning system for your home, look at the space you have available inside and outside your home, review your budget, decide the energy efficiency standard you’d like to have, and shop online to get the lowest prices for all your cooling and heating needs and local installation. If you’re looking for the best possible quote for a new system and installation, visit Pricefixer.com! Better Warranties. Lower Prices. Guaranteed.

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