From portable units to zoned and whole house installations, air conditioning systems have come a long way from their origins. Choosing the right unit not only keeps family members comfortable but lowers power bills during extreme heat.
In this article we have researched the 10 most popular types of Air Conditioning (AC) units that you can install in your house with the pros and cons of each one.
If you are in the process of buying a new AC unit or installing a whole AC system in your new home, this guide will help you.
Table of Contents
- 1) Portable Air Conditioners
- 2) Central Air Conditioning
- 3) Window Air Conditioners
- 4) Wall-Mounted Air Conditioning
- 5) Floor Mounted Air Conditioners
- 6) Ductless, Mini-Split Air Conditioners
- 7) Geothermal Heating and Cooling
- 8) Ceiling Air Conditioner
- 9) Evaporative Air Conditioner (Swamp Cooler)
- 10) Variable Speed Air Conditioners
- Factors to consider when buying an AC unit
- What is SEER
- What is EER
1) Portable Air Conditioners
They’re relatively new to the market when compared to window units and full blown air conditioning systems, but they definitely serve a purpose.
Among the advantages and disadvantages you can weigh as you make your decision to purchase one are:
- -No installer needed; just plug in and run.
- -No destruction of walls and windows.
- -Portability; move from one room to another.
- -Prices are dropping.
- -Units can be stowed in the closet or attic when not being used.
- -Units can be very noisy to run.
- -Portables aren’t as energy efficient as other units.
- -Even with a venting hose, air exchange isn’t efficient.
- -Portables run by discharging water into a tank that must be emptied frequently.
- -You could have problems installing the venting kit.
- -The more powerful the unit, the heavier it is.
- -Larger rooms may not cool down as much as you wish.
2) Central Air Conditioning
While a major improvement over portables, even the best central air conditioning system isn’t perfect. Central air remains the preferred install in new housing and models are getting more efficient by the year.
Importantly, central systems filter air more efficiently, blocking outside contaminants that trigger allergens.
- -Enjoy consistent cooling throughout the year within every room that’s vented.
- -Adopt smart home automation and expect more energy efficiencies.
- -Central systems can be zoned so only sections of a house are cooled.
- -If you live in a warm climate, central air conditioning can be lifesaving.
- -Save money and space with a heating/air conditioning combo.
- -Energy bills, even with automation features will be higher than other AC types.
- -It costs a fortune to retrofit a home with no duct work in to add a central system.
- -You must maintain a year-round schedule of filter changes.
- -Mold can build up if ducts aren’t regularly addressed and inspected.
3) Window Air Conditioners
H.H. Schultz and J.Q. Sherman invented the first room air conditioner in 1931. The unit sat on ledge, which wasn’t very safe, thus installing units into window frames became the logical next step in this product’s evolution.
Still an option for homes with no internal duct work, these units come with advantages and disadvantages.
- -These units are generally inexpensive.
- -Installation can be easy if a homeowner is handy.
- -Purchased as kits, flexible installs can be mounted in windows or transoms.
- -Ideal for residents who don’t want to invest in an HVAC system.
- -A weight-bearing window or transom frame must prevent unit from falling out.
- -Exposure of cables to outside moisture could be problematic.
- -Homeowners can’t open the window as long as it’s in place.
- -This type of system won’t cool entire homes.
- -Units could block natural light and provide access to intruders.
4) Wall-Mounted Air Conditioning
If your window isn’t an option for many reasons — or perhaps it’s a stained-glass installation — considering a wall-mounted air conditioning unit could solve your cooling problem. Consider these points before you say yes:
- -Wall air-conditioners are relatively inexpensive.
- -The unit won’t block scenic views you enjoy through your windows.
- -Installation is done with pre-set sleeves that prevent air leaks.
- -Cooling capacity exceeds that of window units due to more BTUs and better fans.
- -Internal thermostats shut off at programmed times to save on utility bills.
- -If you don’t already have a hole in your wall, this may not be the best choice.
- -Wall-mounted AC units operate best when that room’s door remains closed.
- -Replace an existing unit and you might have to add more vents and/or air intakes.
- -Wall units must be maintained rigorously to achieve performance standards.
5) Floor Mounted Air Conditioners
For folks whose cooling needs can’t be met by a portable unit, a window unit or a wall-mount product, floor-mounted air conditioning products are capable of filling in the gap.
They function by sending cool air upward for efficiency. Never heard of these before? We introduce you to this clever cooling machine.
- -Because these units cool from the floor up, airflow is more efficient.
- -No need to pay for installation or contractors.
- -Washable filtration systems make operation easier and cleaning faster.
- -The tray holding water drippings is enhanced by safety shut-offs.
- -Newer plastic models are easier to grip and lighter than older metal versions.
- -Prices are very affordable, averaging between $100 and $500.
- -Floor mount units are noisier than window units.
- -Allow water to collect in the tray and you may have to dump overflow every few hours.
- -Forget to empty the tray and water build-up could flood the floor.
- -Use the hose connection to vent that water and you will need outside access.
- -You must station the unit next to an outlet to provide power.
6) Ductless, Mini-Split Air Conditioners
Talk about innovation! Better Homes and Gardens product reviewers warn that while they’re not for everyone, “ductless HVAC systems (or mini-split systems) are beautifully efficient and provide consistent room comfort,” a review that could lead you to adding this possibility to your shopping list.
- -Installs by drilling a small hole into the wall.
- -Less vulnerable to air leakage and security worries.
- -They’re not terribly noisy to operate.
- -Ductless systems operate more efficiently than ducted ones.
- -Opt for an Energy Star unit to save an estimated 30-percent on HVAC bills.
- -You’ll have to compromise on aesthetics; these units aren’t attractive.
- -Ductless systems cost much more than window or baseboard types to operate.
- -Ductless systems can’t handle debris accumulation.
- -You’ll need a fuel-based back-up to heat the space.
- -Maintenance requires monthly filter replacements (more often for homes with pets).
7) Geothermal Heating and Cooling
Once a rarity, geothermal has become the choice of homeowners seeking less traditional methods for regulating interior temperatures.
If that describes you, consider cooling your home by using the fact that the earth has a constant temperature of about 55 degrees which will keep the same temperature inside your home.
- -Operates at between 300- and 500-percent efficiency.
- -Save between 25- and 50-percent on cooling costs compared to other HVAC types.
- -Low environmental impact; it’s the greenest choice.
- -Can be interfaced with solar panels.
- -Minimal maintenance due to fewer moving parts.
- -Because pumps are installed underground, expect quiet operation.
- -Equipment install is costly; it could take 10 years to pay for itself.
- -Installing a system in an existing structure requires large-scale yard excavation.
- -Tree roots, shifting soil and rodents could damage system infrastructure.
- -Not every contractor knows how to install this type of cooling system.
8) Ceiling Air Conditioner
Also known as cassette A/C units, this type of air conditioning product is an ideal option for apartments and offices because by using ceiling space, these suspended systems don’t hog floor or window space.
Engineered on the principle that cold air falls, these units provide optimal cool air distribution throughout the room.
- -Powerful fans ensure maximum air circulation, even in large spaces.
- -Units float or fit into false ceilings; condensers are located outside the room.
- -Due to design efficiencies, these units don’t make noise.
- -Comes with programmable thermostat and variable speed fans.
- -Enjoy both energy efficiencies and power bill savings.
- -Distance between interior unit and outside compressor can be lengthy.
- -Installs can be expensive and time-consuming.
- -Cooling benefits don’t extend beyond the room in which the unit is installed.
- -Not every interior ceiling is strong enough to support a unit.
9) Evaporative Air Conditioner (Swamp Cooler)
If you don’t recognize the name of this air conditioning system it’s because professionals call it a swamp cooler.
You don’t have to live in a swamp to enjoy the advantages this system offers, but you will save money. If you live in a hot, dry and arid climate, this an evaporative cooler could be the best choice of all.
- -Average cost for 1500 square foot installed unit is $3900 v. HVAC system at $5000.
- -Impressive cooling ability in dry climates.
- -Energy efficient units are environmentally friendly.
- -Emits less CO2 and no chemicals needed to operate.
- -Can be installed in a variety of places.
- -Extremely quiet operation.
- -Not a good choice for homes located in humid areas.
- -Won’t lower temperatures as dramatically as HVAC systems.
- -Requires a consistent water source for operation.
- -Daily, monthly and yearly maintenance could be required.
10) Variable Speed Air Conditioners
The term “variable speed” refers the unit’s blower. The electronically-commutated motor’s built-in inverter and magnet rotor drive this system’s efficiencies for extreme power savings as well as adding years of life to the motor itself.
- -Homeowners benefit from precise control and best temperature balance.
- -Thanks to variable power output, these units are extremely quiet.
- -Energy savings and power savings are impressive.
- -Anticipate fewer temperature spikes compared to standard AC systems.
- -Expect to pay between 12- and 20-percent more to purchase this type of system.
- -Variable speed blowers are more complex; expect higher repair bills.
- -Even if the warranty covers repairs, labor costs can be steep.
- -Not every contractor is trained to work on these units.
Factors to consider when buying an AC unit
- Cost: Costlier systems tend to save money over time.
- Quality: Consider both unit specifications and product reviews.
- Size: Rely upon a professional to help you decide about the best BTU size of AC in order to efficiently cool the area.
- Duct work: Does it exist? If so, is it in good condition?
- Energy consumption: Efficiency ratings (EER)should run from 8 to 11.5.
- Air quality: All manufacturers are required to meet cooling standards.
- Durability: Pick the system that won’t need frequent repairs.
- Warranty: Read the small print and check validity dates.
- Installation: Location is critical for maximizing cooling capacity.
- Maintenance: Contract with a reliable, established, dependable resource.
- Brand: New manufacturers may be as reliable as older ones.
- Extra features: Ask about add-ons that could improve efficiency and function.
What is SEER
SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) evaluates air conditioning and heat pump cooling efficiency “calculated by cooling output for a typical cooling season divided by the total electric energy input during the same time frame,” explains the TRANE glossary.
Set by the U.S. Department of Energy, you can read more about this at https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=40232
What is EER
EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio) measures “the ratio of output cooling energy in BTUs to input electrical energy (in watts) at a given operating point,” according to a glossary published by air conditioning manufacturer Lennox.
“EER is normally calculated with a 95-degree F outside temperature, an inside (return air) temperature of 80-degrees F and 50-percent relative humidity.” Want to know more? This website can help: https://learnmetrics.com/eer-rating/
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