Comparing the Different Types of Air Conditioning Systems

The 5 Most Common Types of Air Conditioning Systems

It’s the beginning of March, which means it’s essentially the start of summer for us in the South Bay. With temperatures rising and Daylight Savings approaching, you’re probably starting to think about cooling down your home during the day. If your home doesn’t already have a working air conditioner, you have a few options to consider. Here are the 5 most common types of air conditioning systems, how they work, and the benefits of each one.

1. Window Air Conditioning Unit

Useful for cooling off a single room at a time, a window air conditioning unit contains all of the components necessary to cool a room within one compact box. The parts of a window air conditioning unit include a compressor, condenser coil, fan, evaporator coil, and a drainage system. Together, these parts make it possible to send cool air into a room, while expelling the hot air created in the cooling process outside.

As the name suggests, window air conditioning units can be placed in an open window or—less commonly—through a hole in the wall. They can be adjusted by temperature and fan speed to quickly cool a room in your home. Ideal for small rooms and apartments, window air conditioning units can be effective at keeping your home comfortable.

2. Portable Air Conditioning Unit

A portable air conditioning unit is similar to a window unit, in that it is useful for cooling off a single room in your home. Instead of sitting in a windowsill or in an opening in the wall, a portable air conditioning unit sits on the floor in your chosen room. Many units have wheels, making them easy to move from room to room to meet your needs. Because hot air is created during the cooling process, portable AC units will typically include a window kit to allow for exhaustion and ventilation through a window.

3. Central Heating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) System

A central heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is typically used throughout most modern residential and commercial buildings. HVAC systems allow cool or warm air to flow throughout your home through a series of ducts and vents. When compared to window or portable AC units, central heating and air conditioning systems are convenient for maintaining an ideal temperature throughout your entire home. Controlled through a thermostat, central HVAC systems—especially Energy Star-certified systems—can be the most efficient way to keep your home comfortable.

4. Heat Pump

For mild-to-moderate climates, a heat pump is an energy-efficient alternative to a central HVAC system. While most air conditioning units generate heat in order to produce cool air, heat pumps just push warm air from one area to another. During the warm months, your heat pump pushes the unwanted warm air in your home out into the outdoors. Likewise, in the cooler months, the heat pump takes warmth from the air or ground and uses the natural heat to warm up your room. Because heat is moved around instead of generated, heat pumps can use up to 30-40% less energy than other heating and air conditioning methods.

5. Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioning System

A ductless mini-split AC unit is a convenient, flexible technology used to cool an individual room—made up of an outdoor unit and an indoor unit. The outdoor unit contains the condenser, compressor, and expansion valve—while the indoor unit contains the cooling fan and evaporator coil. In contrast to a window unit, a split system doesn’t require making a hole in the wall or taking up your entire open window.

Because the unit is split, it doesn’t take up as much space in your home as a window or portable unit. Additionally, due to the absence of ducts, these units don’t use up as much energy as central heating and air conditioning systems. A ductless system may not be as aesthetically-pleasing as a central system and it will require a place to drain water outside. If you only need to cool one room in your home or you live in a smaller residence, the benefits of split systems are great!

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