Different Types of Central Air Conditioners: Explained

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For some homeowners, choosing a new A/C system can be as simple as heading to the nearest big box store and picking a window unit off the shelf. But for those who desire central heating and cooling, selecting from among all the different types and varieties of A/C units can leave them asking, “Which option is right for me?”

Split Systems

Split systems are the most common type of central air conditioner, and they are generally the most economical to install in a home with a central furnace. They function by splitting up the evaporator coil, which removes heat and moisture from the air, from the compressor and condenser coils, which provides cool air throughout a home via air ducts. Evaporators are typically found in a cabinet or tucked away in a closet, and the condenser coils and compressor are usually located outside of the house.

Packaged Central Air Conditioners

This system, like its name suggests, packages the evaporator, condenser, and compressor into a single unit. Typically this system is placed on the roof or on a concrete slab near the home. Packaged central air conditioners operate by drawing air from a home, converting it to cool air, and then returning it back inside through ductwork. For the system to produce warm air it must be combined with a set of heating coils, eliminating the need for a separate indoor furnace.

Heat Pumps

Another type of split system, heat pump units are uniquely designed to accommodate both warm and cool temperatures. During the summer months, this system operates by removing hot air inside your home and pumps it outside. In winter months, heat pumps extract warm air from outside in order to heat the home. Due to the design of this system, heat pumps are typically a good choice for areas that do not experience freezing temperatures for long durations of time.

Ductless Mini-Splits

These ductless systems are a viable alternative to window A/C units in homes that don’t have ductwork in place for central air. Ductless mini-splits operate similarly to a basic split system by combining an outdoor compressor to indoor air-handling units.

The indoor units are often mounted high on a wall with blowers attached. The indoor and outdoor units are connected with tubing, and air is circulated with refrigerant to produce the desired temperature. Keep in mind, with this kind of system each indoor unit is only intended to regulate the temperature in the room it is mounted (much like a window unit).

Factors to Consider

All central air conditioners boast a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating, which gives homeowners a good indication of how efficient the unit is. The SEER rating is calculated by taking the cooling output of the A/C over a typical cooling season and dividing this number by the number of watt-hours the A/C consumed over this period of time. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the unit.

While many older units are only 8 or 9 SEER, federal and state guidelines require any new units sold to meet a certain minimum SEER standard. For many states, including Florida, the lowest possible SEER rating for a new unit is 14. Each of the major A/C manufacturers, including Goodman, Carrier, Trane, and Rheem, offer central A/C units ranging from 14 SEER to 22 SEER and up.

Those who are shopping for a central A/C may also wonder about the “ton” language they see on a unit’s description. A/C tonnage refers to the amount of heat required to melt one ton of ice in a 24-hour period: 12,000 BTUs (a traditional unit of heat). A one-ton A/C will produce 12,000 BTUs per hour, while a three-ton A/C will produce 36,000 BTUs per hour. The correct tonnage for your a/c will depend on the size of your home, the number of A/C “zones” you have (as it can often be more efficient to have two smaller units controlling different parts of your home than one large unit that has to cool the entire home), and your typical heating and cooling needs.

Request a Home Evaluation

With a number of unit options and operational factors to consider when installing a new heating and cooling system in Jacksonville, it pays to have an experienced professional on your side. At A/C Designs, our team will guide you through the process of selecting the right unit for your home, budget, and lifestyle. We even offer a free lifetime warranty and 10-year labor warranty on select systems, ensuring your investment and home comfort are protected.

Call us today or fill out the short contact form to request a free home estimate.

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