Air Conditioner Types – choosing the right one for your home

Are you in search of a new air conditioner? Maybe your current unit is on its last legs and you’re desperately looking for a replacement? If you haven’t purchased one in a while you may be a bit overwhelmed when you realise just how many air conditioner types there are!

Which one do you pick? What are the different types of air conditioning units and what do they do? It can be very confusing knowing which one to pick but don’t worry, that’s where this useful blog steps in to help.

Read our useful buying guide and you’ll know exactly what to look for when buying your new AC unit! From energy consumption to maintenance, we’ve covered some important factors to consider before making your final choice.

Even better, we’ve explained the types of air conditioning units and listed the pros and cons so you know whether you’re buying the right system. Want to know more? Then let’s jump straight in!

Air conditioning buying guide

Before you rush out and buy your new air conditioner, there are a few essential things to think about. We’ve covered the most important factors to think about below, so be sure to keep reading to find out more!

Budget

If you’re on a tight budget then portable air conditioners or window air conditioners are the cheapest. Keep in mind though that these types can only cool a single room at a time.

Ductless air conditioning systems or mini-split air conditioners are considered cost-effective options if you only need to cool one or two rooms. If you want to cool your whole house with a ductless system you’ll need to keep it on constantly.

Not only will this not be very effective, but it’ll cause some eyebrow-raising energy costs! On the other hand, Smart AC units are a bit more pricey to buy but they’re more energy-saving and therefore not as expensive to run.

A central air conditioning system is considered more expensive than other types we’ve mentioned but they’re also more effective in the long run. Not only that but this type of air conditioner tends to last longer than other types.

The most expensive option is a Geothermal air conditioning unit, but they’re so effective they pay for themselves with energy-saving. Geothermal AC units have unbeatable effectiveness and efficiency compared to other types.

It’s likely that if you pay out for one of these state-of-the-art air conditioning units, it could last a lifetime!

Energy consumption

Purchasing an energy-efficient air conditioner is a great way to help reduce the cost of your energy bills. This energy-efficiency ratio is also called the EER rating.

It’s essential to check this so you choose the most cost-effective option. Remember, the higher the rating, the more efficient the unit will be.

Another important parameter is the SEER or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The air conditioner’s SEER rating is the cooling output divided by the electric energy input at the same time.

The SEER rating might sound similar to EER, but the difference is that the SEER is decided over a whole cooling session of many months at various temperature points.

The EER is decided at a fixed temperature. Like the EER rating, air conditioning units with a higher SEER rating will be more energy-efficient.

Maintenance

Air conditioners that are easy to maintain can make a big difference in how long they last. Also, always choose an AC unit that’s suitable for the size of your home.

There are lots of brands and designs available and your decision depends on many factors. Take into account the space requirement, your budget and how easy they are to use and maintain.

Size

It’s essential to take into account how much space you have to spare as this will determine the kind of air conditioning system you can have. If you don’t have much floor space then a floor-mounted unit wouldn’t be suitable.

On the flip side, if you don’t have a suitable wall or window space, then a wall-mounted system wouldn’t be a good idea. Having insufficient space for your AC unit will prevent it from functioning effectively.

Power

Next, consider how powerful your air conditioning system needs to be. The amount of energy air conditioners produce is measured in BTUs, British Thermal Units.

To determine how many BTUs your AC unit should have, you’ll need to decide how much space, in square feet, you want to cool.

You can measure the square footage of the room just by using a tape measure. Don’t forget to include any closets, entrances, and other tight spaces the room may have.

Control system

Lastly, think about how easy the control system is to use. A good example is a central air conditioning system. These are usually connected to the thermostat and once you’ve set the desired temperature you can leave it, and the AC will do the hard work for you.

On the other hand, a window or portable air conditioner won’t automatically respond so you’ll need to check them manually. This can include anything from manual dialling to digital remote controls and keypads.

As we mentioned before, a huge benefit of a ductless split system is the ability to cool down multiple rooms at different temperatures. If every member of the household is in the same room, it doesn’t make any sense to cool the entire home.

The different types of air conditioners

Central air conditioning

If your home is large and you want to cool multiple spaces at the same time then a central air conditioner is your best bet. This type of air conditioning has a split system that regulates the air through ducts in your home. It’s also called a ducted system.

Split systems are a combination of two main unit types. The outdoor part houses the condenser and compressor while the indoor unit comprises the air handler and evaporator coils. Like all air conditioning, central AC uses refrigerant to remove heat from indoor air.

The unwanted heat is then expelled outside and cool air is pushed in through the installed ducts. Using clever HVAC technology, the programmable thermostats can be combined with central air conditioners to cool your home in a smart way

Pros:

  • It can cool every room that’s connected to the ducts at the same time, creating a cool and effectively regulated environment in minimal time.
  • Because it circulates cool air in every room, the humidity levels are reduced, making the whole environment more comfortable even in hot and humid weather.

Cons:

  • It does consume lots of energy, making your energy bills more expensive.
  • If there’s a problem with the ducts, the AC unit may lose effectiveness and efficiency.
  • The outside unit may look a bit unsightly, but you can always get creative and hide it.

Window air conditioner

Because window air conditioners are available in different sizes they’re ideal if you want to cool one room or a small area of the house. If you choose a large window air conditioner you could cool a small house as long as it’s just single storey or an open plan type design.

For the longest time window air conditioners have been considered an excellent choice for cooling small spaces and considered the most commonly used AC type. A window air conditioner is just one unit with all the components inside it.

It pushes the heat outside and blows a cool airflow into the room. They are installed by a window, hence the name, or by creating a hole in the wall.

These types of air conditioning systems have filters so they can be cleaned easily for maximum AC efficiency. These units also have controls and sometimes come with a remote.

Pros:

  • Window air conditioners are usually more budget-friendly and cheaper to run.
  • Easy to install.
  • The maintenance is easy.
  • They don’t take up floor space.

Cons:

  • They can be noisy during use and can be seen from outside the house.
  • They block the view from the window and have to be placed close to an electrical outlet.
  • Not every window will be able to support a window air conditioner, especially if it’s irregularly shaped.

Split-system air conditioner

Split system air conditioners provide cool air to different areas of the home. Unlike portable air conditioners or window units, split systems are not self-contained but are two-part systems.

They’re commonly used in buildings that don’t have a complete duct system. They’re known as split systems because they have two or more parts. The condenser unit is installed outside and the compact blower or evaporative units are typically mounted on a wall.

These components are connected through conduits that carry power and refrigerant lines. A split system has the advantage of being able to cool different rooms using different temperatures. This is because each unit has its own thermostat.

This feature, unfortunately, does make the split system air conditioners more expensive than a central AC unit.

Pros:

  • Can cool different rooms simultaneously, at different temperatures.
  • They are quieter than other units.

Cons:

  • They are more expensive than other types of air conditioning units.
  • Can be tricky to install.

Ducted air conditioner

Ducted air conditioners are commonly used in shopping centres, workplaces, and other large spaces. But they’re also becoming more and more popular in homes.

This type of air conditioner system involves a central location where the air is filtered and then sent through a series of ducts and pushed into each room. Ducted AC units are great for keeping large rooms at a comfortable temperature.

Pros:

  • Capable of cooling multiple rooms simultaneously.
  • Ideal for larger homes.

Cons:

  • The installation is quite extensive.

Portable air conditioner

Similar to a window air conditioner, portable air conditioners are placed in one unit with the components inside. The difference is that it’s a free-standing AC unit and can be moved around.

All it needs is a power outlet to run it and window access where the air can be exhausted from, through the funnel. Portable air conditioners are ideal if you only want to temporarily cool your home, or if it’s not practical to have a window or split air conditioning system.

They are smaller and more convenient versions and can even be used for bathrooms and other small spaces. Portable ACs can have a single air pipe that takes in the air from the room and expels it outside.

Alternatively, they may have a dual hose that takes air in from outside using one hose. This cools down the compressor and it’s then expelled outside using the other hose.

Because portable ACs are used indoors, the evaporator fans run constantly to evaporate any condensed moisture that builds up inside the unit.

Pros:

  • Easy and quick to set up.
  • It can be moved easily around the home.
  • You don’t need to permanently install it.
  • The perfect option for cooling particular spots in the house.
  • It’s easy to store when you’re not using it.

Cons:

  • It may be noisy to operate.
  • It’s not very good at cooling large rooms or areas of the house.
  • A portable air conditioner that comes with a hose will need to be positioned near a window. The hose will also block the bottom half of your window.

Floor-mounted air conditioning

A floor-mounted air conditioner is designed to be a convenient option if you’d prefer a mini-split system but you don’t have the space to accommodate a wall-mounted air conditioner.

The indoor part of a floor-mounted AC sits on the floor, and the outside part can be installed without any preparation or ductwork. This is also an ideal option for spaces with tilting walls such as lofts or buildings made from delicate materials such as glass.

A floor-mounted air conditioning unit can also be installed up to 6 inches off the floor. It’ll be attached to a small hole made in the wall and connected to the outer unit. A great benefit of this placement is that it makes it easy for you to check the air filters.

Having easy access to the filters makes floor-mounted air conditioning units perfect for people who suffer from respiratory problems or those who want to keep the indoor air quality as high as possible.

This type of air conditioner cools and heats the room faster than other mounted systems because the fan blows the air at your level. Air conditioning systems that are positioned high up on the wall often struggle to cool the space uniformly.

Floor AC units need space around them to operate effectively and circulate the air properly, so be sure the unit isn’t blocked or obstructed by walls or furniture.

Pros:

  • Ideal for elderly people because of the accessibility.
  • Easy to install.
  • A good choice for small or odd-shaped areas as they don’t take up too much space.

Cons:

  • The airflow can be affected by obstructions such as furniture.
  • Not ideal for large rooms because the airflow won’t be distributed evenly.

Hybrid air conditioner

Hybrid air conditioners alternate between using electricity and burning fossil fuels to operate. Intelligent technology chooses between energy sources to save money and power, meaning you won’t get a nasty shock when you get your bill!

In the summertime, this type of air conditioner pulls heat from the room and throws it outside. In the winter, the AC unit functions in reverse. Instead, it pulls heat from the outside and expels it into your home.

When the refrigerant drops below the temperature outside, the heat from outside is transferred to the coils in the AC and into the refrigerant. The extracted heat can then be turned into warm and clean air for the room.

Pros:

  • Saves money by choosing the best energy source.
  • Works effectively in summer and winter.
  • Provides a consistently comfortable airflow.

Cons:

  • They may have a higher price range initially but will prove to be cheaper in the long run.

Mini-split air conditioner

If you’re looking at air conditioning systems that are more efficient or you don’t want a ducted system, then mini-split ACs are an ideal choice.

These types of air conditioners are a combination of an outside unit with a cooling compressor and a condenser, plus an indoor unit. The indoor units are attached to a wall and they have air blowers.

The units are connected through various tubes and the refrigerant circulates through them. Which tube they circulate through will depend on the desired type of use.

Pros:

  • These air conditioning systems can be installed anywhere without hassle.
  • They can control the temperature of each room.

Cons:

  • Single mini-split air conditioners aren’t enough to cool large homes.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, to choose the right air conditioner type for your home, you need to pick the one you need. Investing thousands of dollars when you only need a small AC system is unnecessary, while only buying a small portable AC when you have a big house won’t be enough.

Remember to be realistic about how much power you’re going to need. Also, decide if you’re ok with holes being drilled in your walls and how quiet you want your air-con unit to be.

Being realistic will not only save you money but time as well, especially useful if a hot summer is just on the horizon!