Choosing an Air Conditioner
It’s been a hot, record-breaking summer so far. Has your air conditioner been keeping up? Or maybe you don’t have a/c but wish you did. The price of air conditioning units can seem daunting, but there are actually a variety of styles and price points. Whether you are a home owner or property manager, check out the a/c options below to determine what system is best for your property.
Before comparing options, let’s start with a quick lesson on how air conditioning works. A chemical called refrigerant is used in air conditioners because it becomes cooler when it evaporates. The refrigerant travels through evaporator coils which turn it into gas, cooling the coils. A fan then blows this cool air into your home, as well as blows hot air from inside into the refrigerant to be absorbed. So the refrigerant, which is now heated evaporated gas, is sent back outside to the condenser coils where it’s compressed back into liquid. Then the process repeats! All air conditioning systems produce and dispense water that has been evaporated from the indoor air and must drain through a condensate drain line.
1. Central A/C
How It Works:
The system is split into two units: the condensing unit, and the evaporative unit. The condensing unit is the large box-shaped piece that sits outside the home, somewhere on the property. It contains the compressor, condenser, and fan. The evaporative unit lives inside, somewhere near the furnace and ducts. Refrigerant passes between the units in a connected tube. This system utilizes the same ducts that are used for heat. Central air conditioners will have a condensate line that dispenses water into an outdoor drain or garden. One factor to keep in mind when shopping for central a/c is how big the home is; there are different size systems made for different size homes.
- Most effective system for cooling homes
- Large condensing unit visible on property
2. Window Unit
How it Works:
For window A/C units, everything is obviously contained in one small unit. Hot air is sent through the condenser coils outside, and cool air is blown inside through the evaporator coils. The condensation drips outside the window, which is why it’s important to install these units with a slight tilt towards the outside.
- Can’t be used in vertical windows
- Heavy/awkward to install
- Not very aesthetically appealing
3. Portable A/C
How it Works:
While portable a/c units can technically sit anywhere, they do need a hose vent that exits the house through an exterior wall or window to dispense the hot air. They work best in small rooms, under 500 square feet. This system utilizes a constantly running fan to evaporate the condensed moisture, or some have a reservoir that collects the water and needs to be emptied periodically.
- Portable (can be used in any room)
- No installation required
- Small, doesn’t take up window space
- Loud fan
- Not as efficient and takes longer to cool (due to lack of outside unit)
4. Mini-Split/Ductless A/C
How it Works:
Mini Split systems are similar to central air systems in that they both have an outdoor condensing unit and an inside evaporative unit. However, mini split systems do not use ducts and are not controlled by a central thermostat. Instead, each room where you desire cool air must contain its own unit, controlled by its own remote controller. This is called a multi-zone system, but you can also purchase single-zone systems designed to cool just onw room. The indoor units can be wall-mounted, floor-mounted, or a ceiling cassette, depending on what aesthetic you want.
- Most energy efficient system
- Keep different rooms at different temperatures
- Easy to install
- Lowers energy bills
- High up-front cost for a multi-zone system
5. Geothermal A/C
How it Works:
Geothermal HVAC systems utilize refrigerant just like central a/c units, but they don’t have the same units. Instead, a series of pipes are buried underground and out of sight, and an indoor pump sits somewhere in your house. Since underground temperatures are much cooler than above ground, when the hot air is pushed out of your house and underground, it cools down. Then the cool air is sent back into your house through the duct system.
- Energy efficient
- Very quiet
- Very expensive
- Difficult to install
- Long lasting
Now that you’ve got all the information, you’ll be able to make an informed decision when selecting an a/c system. If you need assistance installing or replacing your air conditioner, reach out for a free HVAC quote today.