Air conditioners come in many shapes and sizes, all with their unique pros and cons. If you are looking to buy an air conditioner, but don’t know where to start, this guide will get you up to speed. It will go through the major types of air conditioners and cover the key points of each to clear things up a little. The most common air conditioning systems include window air conditioners, portable air conditioners, wall hung split or multi head split systems, and ducted air conditioners.
There is a wide variation in the quality and features of each air conditioner, even within its own class. A modern, energy efficient multi head split unit could be more efficient than an older multi head split system, so it is important to look carefully into each individual model. The energy rating star system is a great way to compare the energy use of air conditioners, but you can get even more information by looking at the capacity outputs and inputs.
Window Air Conditioners
These used to be a very common choice for controlling the temperature in a small room. They contain the compressor, condenser, coils and the evaporator all in one single unit. Window air conditioners are designed to fit into the window of a room, so they generally don’t need any significant home modifications for installation. Wall units are very similar, except they need a hole made in the room’s wall in order for them to fit.
Window air conditioners generally have a low up front cost. If you are considering cooling down multiple rooms, you may want to consider a split or ducted system, because they tend to be more efficient. One advantage of window air conditioners is that they can be taken with you when you move houses. This makes them suitable for renters, or those who are considering moving in the near future.
Most window air conditioners work in cycles that involve them turning on to cool down or heat up the room, then switching off once the desired temperature is reached. They click back on once the room starts to heat up or cool down again. They tend to not be very energy efficient.
Portable Air Conditioners
Portable air conditioners are relatively easy to move, but not as much as their name implies. Think easier to move houses with, rather than easy to lug around your home for your daily cooling needs. When compared to other units, they are definitely more portable, however they do need to be installed with a window kit.
These systems work by drawing in warm air, cooling it, then returning it to the room. The two main types are single and double hose models. Those with single ducts draw warm air from inside the room, cool it and return it to the room, while venting the hot air outside. This causes negative pressure within the room, bringing in more warm air from the rest of the house and from outside. Because of this, single hose models are very inefficient. Some portable air conditioners have a second hose which they use to draw air from outside. This reduces the negative air pressure issues that come with single duct models. Despite this, double hose models still tend to be less efficient than other kinds of air conditioners.
Portable air conditioners tend to have relatively low up-front costs. However, in the long run they are likely to cost you more in electricity than other options. It is recommended that you look into other models unless you move frequently, only have a very small space to cool, or don’t plan on using it often.
Wall Hung Split or Multi Head Split Air Conditioners
These ductless systems are quite common in modern homes. They are referred to as split systems because they consist of two units, one kept inside your home and one outside. They can be used to cool or heat single areas, or multi-zone systems can be installed. These have one compressor outside, with several indoor units conditioning the air in various parts of your home.
The indoor units tend to be mounted high on your walls, so it is important to take them into account when planning the décor of your space. Wall split and multi head split systems tend to be smaller than ducted systems and are connected by piping rather than large ducts. Despite this, the indoor units are still more visible than the vents of ductless systems.
Wall hung split and multi head split systems have a relatively high upfront cost compared to the previous two types of air conditioners, but the costs are not as high as ducted air conditioning. Despite the initial expense, they tend to be more efficient than window or portable units, which makes them cheaper in the long run. A wall hung split or multi head split system will require slight modifications to your home, including holes for the piping. To get the best out of the system, make sure you get a professional to install a mini-split for you.
Ducted Air Conditioning
Ducted air conditioning, also known as central air conditioning, can be the most efficient in many situations. A ducted system involves a large compressor on the outside of the building, an internal evaporative unit and ducts that bring conditioned air to various rooms through vents. A ducted system will require some significant modifications to your home and tends to have a high upfront cost.
These systems are great for controlling the temperature of a whole home or office, and they can often come out cheaper to install and run than multiple mini-split systems and window units. While they require a large compressor on the outside, they are almost invisible on the inside, except for the vents and controls.
Air Conditioners For a Diverse Range of Situations
As you can see, there are several major types of air conditioners that each have uses in different situations. While ducted air conditioning may be the most efficient choice overall, it wouldn’t be suitable for someone who just wants to cool down or warm up a single room. If you are in the market for an air conditioner, it is best to figure out your basic needs and what features you would like, then see which type would be best for your individual situation.