Central air offers whole-house comfort from one air conditioning system. Most homes that have central air conditioning use a split system that circulates air through ductwork. The split aspect means that the system is composed of two primary units. An outdoor component houses the condenser and compressor while the indoor component houses the evaporator coils and air handler. Like most air conditioning systems, central air systems use refrigerant to remove heat from the home’s air. This heat is discharged outdoors and cooled air is pushed into the home via ducts and vents.
Central air conditioning supplies cooling to all rooms that are connected to the duct network. This creates a cooler environment throughout the entire home rather than just in individual sections or rooms.
As central air conditioners cool the air throughout the home, some humidity is also removed. Lowered humidity creates a more pleasant environment and better air quality in the hot months, at least in regions that typically experience humid air in summer. Properly functioning central air conditioners keep the home environment overall more comfortable in hot, humid climates than many other types of air conditioners, such as portable, window, wall or swamp coolers can.
Central air uses a lot of energy. Although new models of central air systems are more efficient than those of a decade ago, central air may use more energy to run than a window or wall unit may. This results in higher energy bills.
Central air, which relies on ductwork to distribute air, can lose some efficiency. As cooled air travels through air ducts, heat transfer can occur and the air in the ducts gains warmth on the way to vents. This makes the air conditioner work harder to meet the cooling needs of the home. If supply ducts are located in unconditioned areas, such as a hot attic or a crawlspace, more heat transfer can occur.
There is an increased potential for poorer air quality. Leaks in ductwork or dirty ductwork can lead to contaminants, such as dust and mold spores, circulating through the home’s air supply.
Standard split systems require well-designed and correctly sized ductwork to dispense cooled air efficiently throughout the home.
Care must be taken to install the right air conditioner size or a loss in efficiency and home comfort will occur. This means the homeowner must find a reliable contractor.
A ductless mini-split is similar to a standard central air conditioner in a few ways but it operates more quietly and efficiently. The compressor is installed outdoors and separate air handlers are installed indoors. These are connected to the compressor with lines containing refrigerant, drainage tubes and the power cables. Indoors, each air handler has its own thermostat, which provides individualized climate control for each space. Most mini-splits can accommodate up to four air handlers connected to one outdoor compressor.
They are easier to install than ducted systems.
Mini-splits can be more energy-efficient than ducted systems. Because air travels directly into the spaces to be cooled, no energy is lost through heat transference in ductwork.
It is easy to add a ductless mini-split to new additions of the home.
It is easier to create individual temperature zones in a home because each air handler has a designated thermostat.
They can be added to homes with no existing ductwork.
Mini-split heat pump HVAC systems cool in summer and heat the home in winter. Heat pumps operate by removing heat from the air in warm weather and adding heat to indoor air in cold weather. These systems, therefore, can replace both the air conditioner and the furnace in many climates.
Indoor components of a mini-split are larger and more visible than the registers or vents of standard ducted air conditioning systems.
Refrigerant lines are visible on the outside of the home.
A single mini-split system is not sufficient for cooling large homes in the absence of other supplemental cooling systems, such as window units.
Ductless mini-split systems usually cost more than standard central air conditioners.
Swamp coolers, also known as evaporative coolers, cool air differently than other types of air conditioners. Instead of refrigerant, these implement damp pads. As hot air flows over the pads, the air cools and this air is circulated into the home. With this system, humidity is also added to the air instead of removed from the air.
Swamp coolers use much less energy than air conditioners.
This type of cooling system can be ideal for very dry climates because it adds much-needed moisture to the air in these regions.
Cooling ability falls as outdoor humidity rises.
Moisture is added to the air and this means these cooling systems are only suited for arid climates.
A swamp cooler is only recommended as your primary home air conditioner if you live in an area that is consistently ari
Window air conditioners contain elements similar to a central air conditioner, such as refrigerant, fan, evaporator coils and a compressor, but these are combined in a small unit that can be mounted in a window. They are available in different sizes to cool small or large rooms.
Window air conditioners are a convenient way to cool individual areas of the home.
These are less costly to purchase and install than whole-house air conditioning systems.
Window A/C units can be removed from windows and taken with you when you to a new residence when you move.
No need for added ductwork.
Some can be nosier during operation than central air or other types of air conditioning systems.
They are visible from outside the home. Some homeowner’s associations do not allow window air conditioners.
They obscure the view from a window and must be located close to a suitable electric outlet.
Wall Mounted A/C
Wall air conditioners are similar to window units but they are installed through a wall instead of a window.
This kind of air conditioner does not obstruct windows.
More secure installation means less rattling and other noises during operation than you will have with a window unit.
Provides cooling to individual areas and it is a low-cost alternative to central air.
Many find them unattractive.
Installation and removal is difficult for most homeowners and often needs to be undertaken by a professional.
Other cons include all that you have with a window unit.
These are small air conditioners similar to window or wall units, except that they are designed to be moved easily. A flexible duct is connected to the unit to the outside through an opening in a door, wall or window.
These provide customized cooling to individual areas of the home.
Unlike window units or wall units, these air conditioners can be moved to new areas of the home easily throughout the day to supply cooling where you need it.
Portable air conditioners cost more than window units.
Requires set up each time to connect the exhaust hose to the outdoors.
Portable units can be very noisy as the compressor is housed inside the unit.
With the variety of cooling options available, the deciding factor for many homeowners comes down to the initial cost of the system. However, when you plan on residing in a home for several years, you should also look at how much specific types of systems will cost you as far as monthly energy bills. Small homes, for example, might discover savings by purchasing a mini-split or a large window unit while these setups wouldn’t be feasible for large or multi-level homes.