Types of AC's  View AC Models >>

Types of AC's


There are a few different types of air conditioners that are used in homes and apartments. Here are the most common types:

  • Central Air Conditioners: This type of air conditioning makes use of a "split system"- the "hot" and "cold" sides of the air conditioner are separate and connected by coolant, electrical, and drainage lines. The hot section of the air conditioner is commonly located outside (or sometimes in the attic), and the cold section of the air conditioner is located inside, and is usually in a ducted system powered by some sort of air handler that controls the flow of cold air throughout the house. Because of the air distribution through the ducting system, central a/c units are generally used to cool very large rooms or entire houses or buildings.


  • Mini-split or Ductless Air Conditioners: These units also have a split design, like central a/c, but they don't use ducts to manage air flow. Rather, these units are generally wall-mounted, and the air handler (cold side) is inside and the condenser and compressor (hot side) are outside. Again, the two sides are connected by coolant, electrical, and drainage lines, but the air handler is just a single unit inside- and all cold air is dispersed from this single location (whereas the air handler for central a/c usually pumps air through a ducting system to cool from several different areas at once). mini-split a/c's with one air handler are generally best for use in single rooms, although in situations with "open architecture", they can sometimes cool an entire house. For multiple rooms or larger areas, you can get mini splits with two or more air handlers per single outdoor unit.

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  • Window Air Conditioners: These units sit in a window and are generally designed to cool just one room. They generally consist on just one "box" that contains the cold side of the air conditioner on the inside of the window and the hot side is on the outside.

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  • Through the Wall Air Conditioners: These air conditioners are generally quite similar to window units, but they are designed to fit into a hole in the wall rather than a window. These units are generally designed to cool a single room.


  • Portable Air Conditioners: Portable a/c's offer a bit of versatility that other a/c units cannot offer. Commonly, these units have caster wheels for easy portability and are 28" to 34" tall. Of course, since they are just one "box", their hot and cold sides are both right next to each other. They exhaust the hot air away from the room they are cooling through an exhaust hose. Condensate water is either collected internally (in a bucket or container that must be periodically emptied) or exhausted out the ventilation hose.

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  • There are other types of air conditioners, such as systems using chilled water and cooling towers, but the above listed units are the ones most commonly used around the home.

    Advantages and disadvantages of different air conditioning systems.
    Each different type of air conditioning system has its advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few things to consider when looking for an air conditioner:

    Central Air Conditioners:
    Advantages
    • Generally, very energy efficient
    • One system generally cools an entire home
    • Aesthetically pleasing- generally, the actual machinery of the air conditioner is out of sight
    • Many different models and features to choose from
    • Models with very high BTU ratings available

    Disadvantages
    • Easiest to install when home is built- after the fact installation can be expensive and complicated
    • Professional installation required
    • Generally the best for cooling an entire home- not very efficient if you only need to cool one room
    • High up-front cost for purchase and installation
    • Some cooling/power capacity can be lost when routing air through ducting
    • Generally not a good choice for just cooling a small area
    • Poor air vent placement can create uneven cooling in a home

    Mini-split Air Conditioners
    Browse our inventory of mini split air conditioners>>
    Advantages
    • Generally, very energy efficient
    • Good for cooling just one room or for cooling several rooms
    • No window or ducting required for installation- generally less expensive to install than central a/c
    • Generally quite quiet- the noisiest components of the air conditioner are located outside, away from the unit
    • Can be less visually intrusive than through-the-wall or window units
    • Generally, more powerful units available than are offered in window or through-the-wall models

    Disadvantages
    • Professional installation required
    • Generally, greater up-front cost than window or through-the-wall units (though generally less expensive than central a/c units)

    Window Air Conditioners
    Browse our inventory of window air conditioners>>
    Advantages
    • Reasonably energy efficient
    • Easy installation- professional installation not usually required
    • Low up-front cost for purchase and installation
    • Good for cooling just one room
    • Large range of capacities available
    • Generally very quiet
    • Many different models and features to choose from

    Disadvantages
    • Often somewhat visually intrusive
    • These units generally take up all of one window- and you must either remove them from the window for non-summer months or winterize them
    • Generally, the least expensive, most common units only fit standard, double-hung windows- and those windows must have certain minimum opening sizes
    • Can be somewhat louder than other options

    Through-the-wall Air Conditioners
    Advantages
    • Reasonably energy efficient
    • Good for cooling just one room
    • No window required for installation,
    • Large range of capacities available
    • Many different models and features to choose from

    Disadvantages
    • Often somewhat visually intrusive
    • Can require professional installation to cut the hole in the wall and ensure that the unit is properly installed
    • Generally more expensive than window units
    • Can be somewhat louder than other options

    Browse our inventory of portable air conditioners>>
    Advantages
    • The most versatile units- they can operate with no permanent installation and they are easily transported from room to room, or even house to house
    • Several different window venting options offered- venting kits often fit sliding doors, sliding windows, or double-hung windows that cannot accommodate window a/c's
    • No window required to vent- with minor modifications, venting through the wall, ceiling, door, etc. is possible
    • Good for cooling single rooms of spot cooling rooms that central a/c doesn't cool well
    • Good for boosting the cooling power of central a/c in rooms that need more cooling, like server rooms, kitchens, etc.

    Disadvantages
    • Some units have internal condensate buckets that must be periodically emptied- if condensate is not directly drained off
    • Generally, higher cost than window air conditioning units.
    • Maximum BTU of 12,000 on non-commercial models
    • Inherently less efficient design than other air conditioners- air from the cooled room is used to dissipate the heat developed by the compressor and condenser coil
    • Can create more noise than split air conditioners

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