Did you know that there are 8 different types of air conditioning that are in popular use in the United States?
The team at Same Day Pros has come together to help you learn more about the differences between these AC types so you can be better informed when you search for an air conditioner repair professional near you.
Types of Air Conditioning
There are many types of air conditioning that are suited to different styles of homes. Each type of unit has different pros and cons depending on the typical climate of the region and the needs of the resident.
Chances are, if you’re in a cooler climate where temperatures don’t get too hot or are only hot for a few weeks out of the year, you don’t need a large or expensive cooling system in your home.
Portable ACs are popular for these regions, particularly in northern states that stay cold for most of the year. These either take the form of stand-up units with a tube that connects to the outside, or window units that sit in the sill.
Hotter regions, like most southern states, tend to have whole-home units with ducts built into the framework of the house. These units see a lot of use because the weather stays relatively hot for most of the year.
While these systems, like central air conditioning, have their perks, it can be costly and bulky. These units require ducts to work correctly and must have the air filter changed regularly to prevent harmful allergens and bacteria from circulating through the air.
In regions that fall somewhere in the middle, receiving a fair amount of hot and cold weather throughout the year, it can be necessary to have a permanent solution to cooling.
Unfortunately, it’s often a coin flip of whether homes in these areas are built with the necessary ductwork for whole-home units. Ductless air conditioners are more common in these areas, but they may also have window units or portable AC systems to accommodate the ductless structure of the home.
Window Air Conditioner
A window unit is one of the most popular types of air conditioning available to homeowners, renters, and office workers alike. While these units are heavy and bulky to handle, they sit easily in the sill of any window with a top-down pull.
These units often come with additional padding to help ensure a tight fit into any window space, improving the efficiency of cooling.
The exterior of the unit pumps hot air out, while the interior of the unit provides user controls and provides cool air. These units may be left in the window year-round, or they can be removed when the weather is too cold.
Window AC units are lower on the price range, and can be replaced easily, but many HVAC technicians service them to provide a longer lifespan.
Portable Air Conditioner
Portable AC units are an ideal choice for homes with windows that are narrow or close sideways. These units do still require some form of access to the outside, as a flexible hose must be attached to the window to pump hot air and exhaust out.
These units are considerably more stylish than window AC units and can be easily rolled in and out of different rooms depending on which one needs cooling.
Portable air conditioners are also considered easier to handle in small spaces, and are relatively unobtrusive when looking at a home’s overall aesthetic and décor.
These sleek units are gaining popularity behind window units and are expected to soon become the go-to choice for cooler climates that value removable cooling systems.
Mini-Split Ductless Air Conditioner
Ductless air conditioners are easy to install and control the temperature of individual rooms. (1) These units are perfect for homes or apartments that have high interior walls. These units do require an external unit, but depending on the type of ductless system, the unit can be mounted in a way that minimizes the noise.
Ductless mini-split units can be installed in each room of your home that requires cooling
This unit is mid-tier in price and may require some creative wall mounting, but most designs are sleek and visually unobtrusive when viewing the room’s overall aesthetic. Overall, minimal installation is required, and these units can be very efficient with their cooling.
The downside is that they may struggle with larger rooms or require more than one unit for larger spaces. Often, the precise temperature control offered by ductless systems makes up for these flaws.
Central Air Conditioning
Central air conditioning is a popular system type that requires ductwork throughout the house. This type of cooling relies on an exterior unit to pump out hot air, whereas an internal unit cools the air and filters it, sending it through the ducts. (2)
It is important that these units are maintained regularly, with annual maintenance from a licensed HVAC technician, and that the air filters are changed out every few weeks or every other month depending on usage.
When air conditioners are not cleaned thoroughly and filters changed, a breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria and fungi is created.
Overall, central air conditioning units are a popular source of cooling for warmer climates and, while they are not as environmentally-friendly or efficient as other methods, they have the advantage of cooling multiple rooms on different levels of the home through the ductwork that is already present in the home.
Hybrid Air Conditioners
A hybrid air conditioner is perfect for apartments or homes that need an additional source of heating or cooling. These units are equipped to provide both heating and cooling throughout the home, and can integrate into any forced-air system.
These units can either work with an electronic heat pump for heating needs, or can work with a natural gas furnace or oil tank to heat the air.
The cooling portion of the unit functions like a typical air conditioner, providing cool air to the home when the temperature rises above a certain level that the user sets.
Essentially, these units are a combination of a furnace and an air conditioner, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes with different capabilities, making it a great choice for homeowners or renters who want to downsize their HVAC system.
Geothermal Heating and Cooling
This type of heating provides extremely efficient temperature control and can be used for both heating and cooling purposes.
It works by moving temperature-conductive fluid through a series of pipes that are set into the ground. These pipes bring hot air out of the home, and bring cool air in, giving your home a cooler ambient temperature.
When it is time to heat the home, it provides the opposite effect, bringing cold air out of the home and bringing in hot air, warming the ambient temperature of the home. This technology works because the ground temperature is often cooler in the summer than the air above it, and hotter in the winter.
Overall, while the process is similar to how an air conditioner works, it is a much more efficient and environmentally-friendly method of temperature controlling the home. The lack of popularity and currently means that most homes are not set up for this system, however, which increases the installation price as the underground piping must be installed as well as the interior unit.
Can Geothermal Work Anywhere?
Geothermal cooling is an under-utilized form of temperature control which is gaining popularity in the Untied States, despite a lack of infrastructure.
It is a popular form of temperature control in many other countries, however, and there is demand to make this technology more accessible to the United States is increasing with time as people are unsatisfied with the current infrastructure of heating and cooling homes.
While it is currently one of the more expensive forms of temperature control to install for your home, it is incredibly efficient, low-impact on the environment, and capable of providing both heating and cooling directly from the earth.
Unfortunately, due to a lack of infrastructure and dependance on region, geothermal is not something that is offered everywhere.
Floor Mounted Air Conditioner
This type of unit is controlled by a handler mounted towards the bottom of a wall. This floor-mounted unit is a semi-permanent fixture which might be a drawback to residents in small spaces, but it’s visually unobtrusive.
This unit requires an exterior line to cool efficiently, which makes it a fine addition for homes or first-floor apartments. A big benefit to this type of unit is that it is quiet, and its cooling effects can be felt quickly since it is lower to the ground than ceiling-mounted units.
The position of a floor-mounted air conditioner is important, as it determines what areas of the home will be heated first. In many cases, it should be installed in the main room, and additional units in larger adjacent rooms to keep the heating even throughout the house.
Cassette Air Conditioner
This type of air conditioner is one of the lesser-known but still effective solutions to cooling individual rooms. When it is initially turned on, the fan runs at a high speed to reach cooler temperatures quickly. Once it reaches the target temperature, it reduces its power usage automatically to help you save energy costs and minimize run time.
While it does contain air filters that must be changed regularly, which can be difficult to find in the right size, maintenance is easy and minimal. In many cases, the filter can be washed, dried, and reused rather than completely replaced like central units.
Best of all, this unit is one of the quietest that you can find on the market today, making it a great choice for offices and homes that can benefit from less noise pollution.
How Do I Choose an Air Conditioner?
Choosing an air conditioning unit can be difficult, whether you’re in the market for a new home, or you’re considering a remodel. There are a lot of benefits and drawbacks to any type of AC, which can make the decision difficult, especially when thinking about the local climate.
Consider the type of home or apartment you will be moving into and ask yourself whether it has the duct system necessary to install a central air conditioner, or if the windows are wide enough with top-down closures to accommodate a window unit.
Most often, choosing different types of air conditioning is often determined by the home’s current structure, as well as price. It can be expensive to install a brand new whole-home system, but if you only need to cool one or two rooms, other options may be less expensive.
Portable AC units, however, may not be the right choice if you’re trying to cool the whole home, and tend to use a lot of electricity.
Choosing the Right Size for Your Home
Choosing the right size for your home or apartment is just as important as choosing the right type of air conditioner. No matter the type, air conditioners are typically rated by the ton for how much space they can cool.
The general rule of thumb is that the air conditioner you choose should be able to cool 600 square feet of space per rated ton. For example, a 5-ton air conditioning unit can cool a 3,000 square foot home. Likewise, if you only need to cool a 200-square foot room, you can generally stick with a 1-ton unit or less.
If you’re not certain about which size is right for your building type and personal needs, consult and HVAC technician for their recommendations.
They may also be able to provide you with installation quotes to help you narrow down the type of air conditioner that is best for your home’s current structure.
Different sizes and AC types will also have different rates of energy efficiency which greatly impacts your ongoing costs and the impact of the unit on the environment.
What type of Air Conditioner is the Best?
The type of air conditioner that is best for your needs will be one that adequately cools the space with minimal up-front renovation and keeps the space cool during the hotter months.
Your air conditioning unit should also be energy efficient and have minimal impact on the environment.
These factors are difficult to balance, which is why some people consult an HVAC technician before making a purchase. Because the choice depends so greatly on the typical climate of your region and how the home is built, it is worth doing your research before making your choice.
Some units may not be practical for your space, especially if you are limited to what you can install, such as in the case of a condo or apartment building.
Apartment complexes and condominiums are often limited in their options because they cannot make structural changes to the home.
Often, these residences are on the second floor or higher, making it difficult to install an exterior unit even in the case of lower levels having central air. The longer the air is in the ducts, the less efficient the cooling will be.
For this reason, window and portable units are the most popular choice for renters, as they can use some of their available window space to install a temporary unit for when the summer weather gets too hot.
Most residents in apartments and condos also struggle with the fact that windows are smaller the higher up the building goes, or they may not open at all depending on the style of the building.
In these cases, a ductless air conditioner may be the best solution to cooling the apartment. A benefit to ductless air conditioning units is that the temperature can be controlled on a per-room basis.
There are a wide range of possibilities for in-home AC units. Homeowners can opt for any available air conditioning type desired, so long as it is within budget and structurally possible in the building.
Sometimes, major renovations open the possibility of installing ductwork or other features that the home may require for the desired AC type.
In warmer climates, single-family homes, townhouses, and duplexes are often cooled with central air conditioning units that require an interior unit and an exterior condenser to function properly.
In colder climates, while central air conditioning is becoming more popular in newly-built homes, window units and portable ACs are still the primary source of cooling.
Because the summers are more mild these units may be left alone for much of the year in favor of opening the windows for fresh air, particularly in areas that are closer to the coast.
Businesses often have commercial-grade central air conditioning units, even in areas that aren’t accustomed to a hot climate for much of the year.
This is because there is plenty of heat generated in the building from computers, appliances, and office workers that it’s important to keep the space cooled.
This is also true for retail spaces that need products to stay below a certain temperature to maintain optimal shelf life.
Commercial-grade units require ducts, and air filters must be changed regularly to keep allergens from circulating back into the air once it goes through the AC unit.
In some cases, smaller office buildings may opt for window units, but this is typically reserved for winter-seasonal spaces, offices in the far northern parts of the United States where the summers are mild, or buildings that need to leave the doors open for much of the work day.
Cost Differences Between Types of Air Conditioners
There are several types of air conditioners, each ranging greatly in price depending on the type of unit and the amount of space it can cool efficiently.
Portable and window units are considered the lowest on the price list because they are only meant to cool one individual room at a time.
While their portability provides a boon to homes and apartments that don’t have much space, they also tend to have a lower lifespan and are considered somewhat disposable when something goes wrong, though many HVAC technicians service these units.
Ductless air conditioners tend to range towards the middle of the price range, but they are less efficient than other types of units.
Central air conditioning is common for homes with pre-existing ductwork, and while it tends to be on the more expensive side to install, the unit can last for 15-25 years with proper maintenance and is efficient in cooling the whole home.
Geothermal systems are an excellent choice for efficiency and reliability in temperature control. Since these units typically regulate the home’s heating and cooling, it is one of the more expensive types that you can install. The downside is that it is only able to be installed in certain regions, depending on how the land around the property is shaped.
What is the Different Between AC and HVAC?
A lot of people believe that AC and HVAC are two separate things because they are often advertised separately by HVAC technicians who wish to specialize in air conditioning repair.
Despite the confusion, AC – which stands for air conditioning – is only one aspect of HVAC.
The other two aspects are heating and ventilation. HVAC is an acronym that stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning.
In other words, while you might find yourself working with a specialist, HVAC knowledge and certification is important for any air conditioning repair job.
Sometimes, you may see HVAC-R technicians advertising their services on Same Day Pros. The R stands for Refrigeration, which is for commercial spaces with industrial refrigeration units, not your everyday home refrigerator.
These units require a special kind of expertise to service that a HVAC technician will be more familiar with, as it is often connected to the building’s cooling system.
Protecting Your AC Unit
Keeping your AC unit in good health is important to extending its lifespan and keeping it as efficient as possible. (3)
Different types of units have different recommended care instructions, but it is always recommended to have it serviced once a year for general maintenance.
Overall, protecting your AC unit through preventative repairs and general maintenance visits are one of the best things you can do for both your AC unit and your investment.
Schedule a yearly checkup with a professional to make sure your cooling system runs efficiently and lasts longer.
Annual maintenance appointments from a licensed HVAC technician can help you catch any drops in efficiency and extend the unit’s lifespan by several years.
It will also help you catch any potential problems that might cause the unit to stop working well in advance, preventing any untimely breakdowns in service.
With proper maintenance and proactive repairs, most AC units can last anywhere from 10-25 years depending on the type of unit and the amount of usage it sees throughout the year.
Additional measures may be necessary depending on the type of unit you choose. For example, an outside unit is necessary for central air conditioning. This unit, called a condenser, may need a tarp-like covering to prevent it from being damaged from winter weather and strong rainstorms.
Get The Warranty
When you purchase or install a new AC unit, no matter the type, it generally comes with a manufacturer’s warranty to help cover repairs that could extend the lifetime of the unit and replace faulty parts.
It is always a good idea to get the warranty, even if it costs extra at the time of purchase. This is especially true for larger units such as central air conditioning systems or geothermal cooling systems as there are many different parts to the unit that can malfunction over the years through normal use.
A manufacturer’s warranty can save you replacement or repair costs down the line if the warranty covers malfunctions and HVAC technician costs.
Often, working on the unit yourself can void the warranty, so it is important that only qualified HVAC technicians work on the unit to prevent the warranty from expiring early.
If you’re unsure whether your HVAC technician from Same Day Pros is qualified to work on a certain brand unit without voiding your warranty, you should ask before booking an appointment.
- Forbes.com, 8 Types of Air Conditioners to Consider For Your Home, https://www.forbes.com/advisor/home-improvement/types-of-air-conditioners/
- Huffpost.com, Is Your AC Making You Sick? 5 Things You Need to Know, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/air-conditioning-health_b_7233810
- NYTimes.com, Stay Cool Without Racking Up a Bill, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/08/at-home/lower-air-conditioning-bill.html