Types of Air Conditioners

There are different types of air conditioners that you should know of. An air conditioner or AC, as we all know it, is part of an HVAC system that cools the air in a room. Whenever the weather is hot or humid, we need the AC to keep us cool and comfy. Finding the right air conditioner can be daunting if you don’t know what to consider. Factors like energy efficiency, noise level, cost, installation & maintenance needs, durability, and size would determine the type of AC unit to go for.

Whether you’re looking for the right air conditioning unit that is convenient, energy-efficient, or budget-friendly, we’ve got you covered! In this article, we’ll discuss the different types of air conditioners like central air, ductless mini-splits, window units, and portable units. We would also highlight their pros and cons so that you know which one is ideal for your home.

Central Air Conditioners

A central air conditioner is designed to cool a whole house or an entire building through ductwork, which delivers cool air to the rooms. This type of conditioning system supplies cool air to every room, where vents are installed. It consists of the outdoor unit, the indoor unit, and the ductwork. 

Pros of Installing Central Air 

  1. Whole House Cooling
    1. Central air conditioning system cools the whole house or building, ensuring automatic cooling in every room.
  2. Outward Appearance/Aesthetics
    1. The internal components of the central air conditioning system are hidden, exposing only the vents and registers, which makes it more visually appealing. Also, central air conditioning systems do not require indoor unit installation in each room, leaving the room with a more spacious and neat appearance.
  3. Silent Operation
    1. The condenser and compressor are the noisy components of the central air conditioning system, which are located outside the building. This makes central air ideal in the home, especially in rooms where you want a quiet atmosphere.

Cons of Installing Central Air

  1. More Expensive
    1. Due to ductwork installation, central air conditioning systems are more expensive than other air conditioners.
  2. Increased Energy Consumption
    1. Central air conditioning systems tend to consume more energy because the ductwork can lead to air/energy losses due to poor installation, friction loss, cracks, and leaks. This situation causes the air conditioning system to work harder to compensate for the lost air or energy loss. 
  3. Professional Installation
    1. Unlike a window or portable unit, installing a central air conditioning system is not what every regular person can easily do. You would need the expertise of a professional, which can add up to the cost. HVAC technicians use their expertise to check the size, ductwork design, and appropriate installation for the central air conditioner that would be optimal for your home.
  4. Very Invasive 
    1. It is more invasive because of the installation of ductwork.
  5. Less Efficient Zonal Control
    1. Central air conditioning systems cool the entire building, but one of the caveats is the limitations of the zonal control. With central air conditioners, you can’t individually regulate the temperature of a room or the amount of air circulating in each room. Although dampers can be installed into existing ductwork to regulate the temperature in each room, they can be expensive and complex to install.
  6. Waste of Energy 
    1. Since you can’t easily regulate the temperature in each room individually, it can lead to a waste of electric power.

Ductless Mini-Splits

Ductless mini-splits are usually found in residential and commercial buildings. Installing them is not as invasive as central air, since they don’t require ductwork to distribute cool air. They consist of two main components, which are the indoor unit (air handler) and the outdoor unit (condenser). These components are connected with a refrigerant line running through to the exterior wall of the house. The air handler is connected to the outdoor unit that regulates the room’s temperature by circulating the indoor air to make it cool. For each room to get cool, you would need to install an air handler per room. The indoor unit can be installed on the ceiling, floor, or wall of the home. This type of AC is ideal for a specific area, room, or zone. Each room can have a remote control to regulate the room temperature individually.

Pros of Installing Ductless Mini-Splits 

  1. Energy-Efficient 
    1. Ductless mini-split systems are very energy-efficient. You can easily decide to cool only certain areas of your living space, which would save energy and reduce utility costs.
  2. Fairly Easy to Install
    1. Unlike the central air conditioning system, installing a ductless mini-split air conditioner is less invasive and fairly easy. Since there is no ductwork installation, there is no invasive work needed, which makes them ideal for both new and older buildings.
  3. Space-saving 
    1. Ductless mini-splits do not require much space for installation. The air handlers can be installed on the wall, floor, or ceiling, making them a great cooling solution for a small room.
  4. Individual Room Temperature Regulation 
    1. The cool air from the indoor unit that circulates each room can easily be adjusted, enabling your loved ones to enjoy a warm or a cooler room temperature depending on their preferences.
  5. Minimal Damage/Less Invasive 
    1. The degree of invasiveness when installing a ductless mini-split air conditioner is minimal since there is no need for ductwork.

Cons of Installing Ductless Mini-Splits

  1. Appearance/Aesthetics
    1. Compared to central air conditioners, ductless mini-splits are not that visually appealing because of the obvious visibility of the indoor units. Although some individuals don’t mind this, others do.
  2. Requires Professional Installation
    1. Just like central air, it is advisable to hire a professional to do all the necessary installations for a properly functioning ductless mini-split system.
  3. Limited Area Cooling
    1. There is limited cooling with ductless mini-splits since they don’t use ductwork to supply cool air. They can only cool the rooms they are installed in, not the whole house. 
  4. The Upfront Cost is Expensive 
    1. The upfront cost of installing a ductless mini-split air conditioner is more expensive compared to a central air conditioning system with ductwork. The price can also add up depending on how many indoor units you want to install plus other important installations that need to be done for an efficient and smooth working ductless mini-split air conditioner.

Window AC Units

These are also known as window air conditioners. They are designed to be mounted or installed in a window or through a sizable hole in an exterior wall. Window air conditioners are ideal for a single room or small spaces. Unlike the ductless mini-split air conditioner or the central air conditioning system, window air conditioners house all the components necessary for cooling in a single unit. Some window air conditioners have adjustable louvers, which help to redirect airflow to another direction. 

Pros of Installing Window Units

  1. Easy to Install 
    1. Since there’s no ductwork installation, there won’t be any major modifications to your home’s structure.
  2. Energy-Efficient 
    1. They don’t use much energy or electricity to cool a room compared to central air conditioners.
  3. Affordable
    1. Window air conditioners are more affordable when compared to central air conditioners or ductless mini-splits—making them an ideal option for potential buyers on a tight budget.
  4. Cooling For Specific Areas
    1. Window air conditioners blow direct air to the particular room that they are installed in, keeping the room cool and comfortable.
  5. Controls Air Direction
    1. With a window air conditioner, you can easily control the adjustable louvers to direct airflow in one direction or another. 

Cons of Installing Window Units

  1. High Noise Levels 
    1. Window air conditioners are noisier than central air conditioners and ductless mini-splits.
  2. Appearance
    1. Window units don’t look as visually appealing as the central air conditioner and ductless mini-splits.
  3. Limited Cooling Capacity 
    1. Window air conditioners are only built to cool a small room or area, and are not efficient enough to cool an entire building.
  4. Potential To Fall Off
    1. Since half of the window units rest outside, there is a tendency for the unit to fall off. If you’re going to install a window air conditioner, discuss this issue with the HVAC technician so that they can secure it properly
  5. Security Issue
    1. vv Installing a window air conditioner makes you more vulnerable to home invasion. Ensure your window unit is properly secured to prevent this.

Portable AC Units

These are standalone units that you can easily move from one room to another. Portable air conditioners or units have built-in wheels to help you easily move them. If you stay in a small apartment, a portable air conditioner can be ideal for your space. Portable units draw in warm air from the room, then cool the air, and release it to circulate the room—creating a cool atmosphere. These units come with an exhaust hose, which evacuates hot air through an opening from the inside leading outside or through the window.

Pros of Installing Portable Units

  1. Easy Installation
    1. Of all the types of air conditioners that we’ve discussed so far, portable units are the easiest to install. They can cool a room without the need for ductwork installation.
  2. Very Flexible
    1. Portable air conditioners are pretty flexible. If you’re tired of staying in one room, you can easily carry your portable unit to relax and cool off in another room.
  3. Portability
    1. One of the main perks of portable air conditioners is how portable they are. Portable units can easily be moved, allowing you to cool any room you like to stay in.
  4. Affordable
    1. Portable units are more affordable than ductless mini-split air conditioners or central air conditioning systems. Since there is no ductwork installation, they are cheaper to buy and install.
  5. Mobility
    1. Most portable air conditioners come with wheels, allowing you to wheel them from one room to another.

Cons of Installing Portable Units 

  1. High Noise Level
    1. Portable units make more noise compared to the other types of air conditioners we discussed earlier. This noise can be an inconvenience if you like to sleep in a quiet environment while the AC is on.
  2. Water Output Problems 
    1. Portable units require regular cleaning due to the indoor condensation that occurs, leading to the collection of water in the drip tray, which would need regular emptying.
    2. They also come with drain lines that can clog or not empty correctly which could cause interior damage.
  3. Limited Energy Efficiency 
    1. Portable units are less energy-efficient in comparison to other types of air conditioners. They use more energy to cool a room, which increases the electricity bill. 
  4. Lower Cooling Capacity 
    1. They are only ideal for smaller rooms since they have lower cooling capacities than window units or central air conditioners.
  5. Not Very Efficient In Hot Climates 
    1. They are not very efficient in hot weather or climate. Portable units are only ideal in rooms that are not so hot.
  6. Short Life Span
    1. Portable air conditioners don’t last as long as other air conditioners.

In Closing – Types of Air Conditioners: Which One is Right for You?

The ideal air conditioner that would be suitable for you depends on your budget, preference, or how big your living space is. Knowing the pros and cons of each air conditioning solution would help you choose the best one for your home. If you’re a homeowner and want to install an air conditioning unit to cool your whole house, then a central air conditioner would be a suitable choice. But if you only want to cool a specific area of your home, then a window unit or a portable unit would be ideal. The ductless mini-split air conditioner is a great choice if you want to regulate the temperature of each room in your home. Before installing a window or ductless mini-split system in a rental property, discuss it with your landlord or homeowner to know if it’s allowed.

Want to install an air conditioning unit in your home within the Pittsburgh area? Contact The Climate Master today. We’re a team of certified HVAC technicians handling air conditioning installations, repairs, maintenance, and furnace installations.

If you are still uncertain about the type of air conditioner to go for, reach out to us. We’ll guide you in making the right choice to get the best cooling solution for your home.