In the hot summer months it’s easy to see why air conditioning is a home comfort necessity, especially if you live in an area with high humidity. The question is which air conditioning unit will work best for you?
When it comes to efficiency levels, aesthetics and the ability to provide comfort, results can vary. HVAC Philly takes a look at the pros and cons of each unit or system to help you decide which is the best option for your home.
Window air conditioners
Window units are a popular type of cooling equipment that are designed to fit in double- and single-hung windows. They are usually installed in older apartments buildings like those in historic cities and towns located in Philadelphia, Bucks and Montgomery Counties in PA., that lack central air conditioning, or they can give a cooling boost to single rooms in larger homes.
Some benefits of using a window air conditioner are:
Window air conditioners are small, portable and easy-to-install without a professional HVAC specialist’s help.
When working with a tight budget a window unit is the least expensive equipment option for adding air conditioning to your home.
Today’s models are up to 30 percent more efficient than those manufactured only a decade ago.
They also come with warranties as long as five years to give you peace of mind when you make your purchase.
Some disadvantages of using a window air conditioner are:
Window air conditioners are not intended to cool an entire house.
You will need multiple units to keep every room comfortable.
Every unit that is installed in your windows will limit your use and block views of the outside.
You also have to deal with the noise of a compressor running right by your ear.
If you decide you need a large unit, you may find it difficult to install and remove for winter storage.
Factors that can impair window air conditioner efficiency include high ceilings, lots of windows and doors, high sun exposure, and cooling a room on the top floor.
Portable air conditioners
These units are very similar to window air conditioners, however they stand on the floor instead of going directly into the window. This type of unit draws in air, removes heat and moisture, and vents cool, dry air back into your home. Hot, humid air is vented through an exhaust hose going out the window. This is only a better option to window units if you have the wrong kind of windows, or you are unable to lift heavier window air conditioners.
Some benefits of using a portable air conditioner are:
Portable air conditioners are even easier to set up than window units.
The floor units roll around on casters so you can position them exactly where you need them.
The hose leading out of the window will not obstruct the view, and it is easy to temporarily remove the hose so you can utilize the window when the weather is nice.
Some disadvantages of using a portable air conditioner are:
Portable air conditioners tend to only deliver half the cooling capacity they claim, according to consumer reports, which can leave you feeling hot and sweaty even when the unit is working nonstop.
They are also more expensive and less efficient than similarly sized window units. Noise is another factor, and most portable air conditioners have water reservoirs you must drain manually as the unit removes excess humidity from the air.
Ductless mini-split air conditioners
A ductless mini-split is a heat pump without duct work. It has two main components; the first is an outdoor compressor, similar to the ones found in central air conditioners; the second is an indoor evaporator coil and air handling unit that mounts to the wall or ceiling. A conduit traveling through a sealed hole in the wall links the two units together.
Ductless mini-split air conditioners are designed for cooling older homes without duct work, and smaller homes or add-ons where adding duct work isn’t feasible. Some of the newer ductless AC models achieve the highest efficiency ratings of any type of air conditioning system.
Some benefits of using a ductless mini-split air conditioner are:
The main advantage of mini-splits is their ability to provide flexible cooling to separate parts of your house, at the same time maintaining a small size and energy efficient operation.
It is as close as it gets to central air conditioning without having to install duct work.
Since mini-splits are a type of heat pump, they can also provide home heating in the winter.
Ductless mini-splits operate as quietly as an ordinary fan. The compressor is located outside which makes these units much quieter than a window or portable home air conditioner.
There is no need to access the window during installation, mini-splits provide better home security, an unobstructed view of the outside, and the ability to operate the window whenever you want.
Some disadvantages of using a ductless mini-split air conditioner are:
Ductless mini-splits are more expensive than window or portable units.
You will need a professional HVAC contractor to perform the installation, which will include drilling a three-inch hole in the wall to link indoor and outdoor components.
You will need to take interior design considerations into account since the unit mounts to the wall or ceiling of the room you want to heat or cool.
Central air conditioning system
The most comprehensive way to cool your home is using a central air conditioning system. It involves distributing cooled air through duct work with return and supply registers in each room. All air conditioning components are located outside, except for the air handler, which is usually shared with the furnace. If you’re looking for whole-house cooling, and you already have duct work in place, this is the option that makes most sense.
Some benefits of using a central AC system are:
Central air conditioning is the most efficient way to keep your whole house cool.
Lower energy bills as well as better indoor comfort, cooler temperatures and lower humidity.
Air conditioning components located outside will keep your home cool with a virtually invisible, silent system.
Installation is easy and straightforward if you already have duct work, but you will still need to hire an HVAC professional for the job.
It is an investment that adds value to your home.
Some disadvantages of using a central AC system are:
Central air conditioning systems for homes require annual maintenance to remain in top working condition for years to come.
Higher upfront costs as well, especially if you also need duct work. However, if you’re just replacing an existing central air conditioning unit, the cost is less expensive than putting in a new ductless mini-split.
The final thought while you are deciding on and comparing air conditioning systems is what size you need for your home. If you choose an undersized unit, it won’t keep up on the hottest days. If you install an over sized unit, it will short cycle, which wears out parts faster and doesn’t give the unit a chance to dehumidify the space.
When you choose a central home air conditioner or ductless mini-split, a licensed professional contractor sizes the unit for you so it precisely meets your cooling needs. It’s just one more reason to opt for a professionally installed home air conditioning unit.
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