With rising temperatures, the demand for air conditioners has increased, and new models are being introduced into the market every year.
If you’re in the market for a new air conditioner, we explain the different types of units you could order.
What is an Air Conditioner and How Does it Work?
An air conditioner is used to push the heat outside from some space and cools it down with cool air that is moved inside a building through ventilation.
As for the working principle of an air conditioning system, the air is sucked through a vent into the ducts of an air conditioner which is then used to cool the gas in an evaporator. As the system removes the heat from the air, its temperature drops and it becomes cooler. Finally, the ducts release this cool air back into your house or office.
The ducts continue blowing the cool air inside the house until it reaches the selected temperature. As the thermostat of the air conditioner senses that the desired temperature level has reached, it shuts off the air conditioner. When the temperature of the room rises again, the air conditioner is turned back on to achieve the desired temperature again.
History of the Air Conditioner
Willis Carrier invented the modern air conditioner in the early twentieth century. Willis was a skilled engineer who was trying to solve the humidity problem for a printing company. It was the first effort that helped control the temperature of the surroundings and started the history of the air conditioner.
In 1933, the Carrier Air Conditioning Company designed a state-of-the-art air conditioning system that employed a belt-driven condensing unit with a blower, evaporator coil, and mechanical control systems.
While today’s air conditioners are equipped with advanced vapor compression, electronic sensors, and energy-efficient components, they basically operate on the same working principle as Carrier’s 1933 air-cooling system.
1. Central Air Conditioner
The central air conditioning system is an ideal solution for most homes and businesses. It’s an easy-to-use and cost-effective system (in the longer run) with the lowest maintenance. However, the setup cost of the central air conditioner can be higher than the other alternatives. Before hiring any HVAC company, make sure they have enough experience in installing central air conditioning systems.
A central air conditioner comes with a cooling compressor which is installed outside of your house. This compressor cools the air and supplies it to the rooms of your house through the ducts. A return system then pulls the warm air out of the house which is blown out through the exhaust. The thermostat on the wall helps you control the temperature inside.
For newly constructed homes, the central air conditioner is a standard, but for older homes, HVAC isn’t always set up. However, it’s super-easy to install central air conditioning systems as at least ductwork is already established in most houses.
- It has a consistent temperature in every room of your house all year long.
- The air through the ducts is filtered, meaning the central air conditioner ensures improved air quality in your house.
- You don’t need to install a separate system for heating in low temperatures.
- It may dramatically increase your energy bills.
- Duct maintenance is required.
2. Packaged HVAC Unit
As its name indicates, a packaged HVAC air conditioning system has all the components contained in a packaged unit, which is installed outside.
This air conditioning system features all the necessary components that allow you to keep your place cool during the warmest period of the year. In fact, it’s one of the best air cooling systems you can set up in your home or business.
Moreover, a packaged HVAC air conditioning system allows you to add heating strips that give you the option to heat your home if needed. However, if you live in cold climates, heating strips won’t be enough to provide the desired heat. Therefore, these packaged units aren’t the best option to go for when it comes to very low temperatures.
- When there isn’t much space in your home to install a big air handler, a packaged unit can be placed outdoors. You can take it to the roof of your home if there isn’t any yard space. So, it’s a great space saver.
- All HVAC components are at one place which makes the maintenance easy.
- These systems are installed outside, so there is no indoor noise.
- Electrical wires and controls are placed outside, making the system vulnerable to harsh weather conditions.
3. Window Air Conditioner
These are the most common air conditioning systems you see these days. As you pass through a city street and look up in the summer season, you’ll spot a lot of window air conditioners installed above you.
Generally, these air cooling systems are mounted in a window and use an exhaust that helps to push the hot air out of the room while the refrigerant system, which is pointed indoors, throws cool air into the room.
Window air conditioners usually come with the ability to cool the temperature of one room and you’ll need to install more in every room of your home that you want to keep cool. These inexpensive cooling units are the most popular choice for people who have smaller homes or apartments. Also, they are easier to move between the rooms when necessary.
- Window air conditioners deliver high efficiency and have relatively low noise.
- Even small units can cool a larger room.
- No intervention is needed to drain out the water from the unit.
- Sometimes installation can be a bit tricky.
- Blocks the window of the room.
- Moving the unit from one room to another isn’t hassle-free.
4. Wall-Mounted Ductless Mini-Split
If you need an efficient air cooling system for a portion of your home that doesn’t require any ductwork, a wall-mounted ductless mini-split air conditioner would be an ideal choice for you.
These air conditioners come with an outdoor unit that comprises a condenser and a compressor, plus one or more units that are placed indoors. Indoor units employ air blowers and are usually mounted on the wall. The outdoor and indoor units are connected through conduits, which carry both the refrigerant and power lines.
The compact indoor units are usually installed in each room of your home and can be used for cooling or heating requirements. While these ductless mini-split systems are energy-efficient, they can get quite expensive if you plan to install them in each room of your house.
- These systems can be easily installed anywhere without any ductwork.
- They are quiet and energy-efficient.
- You can control the temperature of each room as you want.
- They are not ideal for large houses or businesses.
- Easily visible and can get highly expensive for larger spaces.
5. Portable / Floor Mounted Air Conditioner
If you need an air conditioner to cool down a smaller space quickly, a portable air conditioner can be a very convenient and affordable choice. Its super portability allows you to move it from one room to another and cool down your spaces. However, you’ll have to drain out the condensation catch when it gets filled up, which can be bothersome for some people.
A portable air conditioner can also be an ideal option if you don’t want to keep your central cooling system running all day. Instead, you can use this energy-efficient source of cooling for shorter periods when needed.
Portable air conditioners also come in smaller versions that can be used for bathrooms and other smaller spaces in your house.
- They are highly portable and can be easily moved from one room to another.
- Permanent installation isn’t necessary for these air cooling systems.
- They are power-efficient and can be installed to cover small spaces.
- Can be a little noisy during the operation.
- Such units aren’t ideal for larger rooms.
6. Heat Pump Air Conditioner
Heat pump systems usually use a compressor and a circulating system of gas refrigerant to extract the heat from an external source and then pump it inside the room. Typically, it consumes less energy compared to other systems that convert electricity into heat. In the summer season, you can reverse this cycle to make the heat pump an air conditioner.
Heat pump air conditioners are more affordable and rising in popularity. Compared to other oil, fuel, and electric heating or cooling systems, they are the most efficient alternative. While gas furnaces do a relatively great job and save a lot of energy, they cannot be used as a long-term solution considering the carbon footprint aspect.
- The running cost of a heat pump air conditioner is lower.
- They require less maintenance and have a longer life-span.
- Can be converted to a heating source during the winter season.
- Upfront cost can be higher.
- Installation can be difficult and require sufficient work.
7. Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner
The packaged terminal air conditioner is commonly installed in apartments, motels, and small-scale buildings. It’s individually controlled and mounted on a window or the wall along with ventilation equipment that throws fresh air inside the building.
The evaporator coil of the packaged terminal air conditioner faces the inside portion of the building while its condensing coil faces the outside of the building. A fan is installed in the system that blows the cool air into the room.
These types of units are also available in heat pump versions that are known as the packaged terminal heat pump units. Along with the cooling option in the summer season, they also allow you to heat your space during the winter. You can simply reverse the cycle of the refrigerant using a four-way valve on the system.
- You get the options of heating and cooling in a single unit.
- They help save energy.
- You can quickly set the desired temperature with a single push of a button.
- They are generally expensive.
- You’ll need a large hole cut in your wall to install a packaged terminal air conditioner.
8. Ceiling Cassette Air Conditioner
The ceiling cassette air conditioning systems are easy to install and very popular with different businesses. They can also easily adapt to various spaces and don’t catch attention once they are installed.
These air cooling systems are no different than the other air conditioners and have the same working principle. However, the way they are mounted is primarily different from other air conditioners. As the name indicates, a ceiling cassette air conditioner is fixed in the ceiling. Usually, suspended ceilings are the best option to mount these systems as they have enough space to hold them.
As for cooling, ceiling cassette air conditioners can cover a wide area. They are versatile and enable large businesses to establish a professional air cooling system without having to make costly adjustments to the premises.
- Ceiling cassette air conditioners are equipped with powerful fans that effectively cover larger areas for cooling.
- You don’t have to cut a large hole in your wall to install these systems.
- They are noise-free as the condenser is typically placed outside.
- They are energy-efficient.
- Installation may require a lot of work and time.
- It certainly requires more than one ceiling cassette unit for a business and therefore cost can be significantly higher.
9. Swamp Coolers
Although swamp coolers or sometimes referred to as evaporative air conditioners aren’t as popular as refrigerant air conditioners, they are equally effective. Unlike the other common air cooling systems, which employ refrigerants to cool down your space, swamp coolers make use of air and water.
This technology is quite old and simple. To put it simply, the air is passed above or through the water to lower its temperature. Swamp coolers push hot air through moistened pads into the room. These pads cool the air down which is then distributed into the house.
However, one of the main disadvantages of the swamp cooler is that it only works in hot and dry climates, and evaporation only works with hot and dry air.
- Like other types of air conditioners, swamp coolers can significantly reduce the temperature of your room in hot and dry climates.
- They are super-easy to maintain and require pad changes only once a year.
- Compared to other cooling systems, they are highly energy-efficient.
- If the temperature goes above 95-degree, they struggle to cool your space.
- They’ll not work in humid climates.
- They are prone to water leaks, which can cause problems.
10. Smart Air Conditioner
Smart air conditioners are IoT (Internet of Things) enabled devices that are available in various types of air conditioning systems such as portable, mini-split, or window air conditioners. These systems use Wi-Fi to connect with the app that can be installed on your smartphone and offer great control over the air conditioner.
Geofencing, weekly schedule, temperature control, and comfy mode are some of the examples of the features that are included in smart air conditioning systems. These smart features not only offer great comfort but also help reduce your electricity bills.
- Numerous smart features are included to ensure incredible comfort and convenience.
- Efficient use of the features helps save electricity costs.
- Their cost can be higher than regular air conditioners.
- Wi-Fi connection is always the requirement to use the smart features.
11. Ground Source Air Conditioner
Ground source air cooling is a new technology that is rapidly gaining momentum around the world. Because of the insulating properties of the earth, the temperature remains unaffected under four to six feet of the ground throughout the year. A ground source air conditioner employs this technology to keep your house cool or warm.
A piping system referred to as a “loop” circulates the water through your home, a heating pump, and the ground. In the summer season, heat is collected from your house and taken back into the earth while in the winter, the process is reversed and the heat is extracted from the earth to distribute it in your house.
- You get heating and cooling options unlike many other types of air conditioners.
- Compared to other systems, their running cost is quite low.
- Intensive work is required to set up a ground source air conditioner.
- Soil type affects the efficiency of the system.
- Set up costs are considerably higher.
Frequently Asked Questions about Air Conditioners
Typically, air conditioners last between 15 to 30 years, depending on different circumstances. Some of you will say it’s quite a big range but it depends on where you live. For instance, if you live in an area where the climate is harsher and your AC has to face constant rain and humidity. All these conditions can significantly reduce your AC’s lifespan.
Similarly, places with hot and dry climates may equally affect the performance of your unit and shorten its lifespan. However, if you consistently maintain your air conditioner and don’t have extreme climate around, your system may last up to 30 years.
BTU stands for British Thermal Unit which is used to measure energy. The energy used to increase the temperature by one degree Fahrenheit of one pound of water is referred to as one BTU of energy. Similarly, it’s used for air conditioning units as well.
No matter what type of air conditioner it is, BTU will always tells you how powerful the system can be. Instead of increasing the temperature, an AC unit reduces it, and here one BTU measures how much heat is removed. The higher the BTU reading on an AC, the more effective and powerful it should be.
Your air conditioner uses an evaporator coil that reduces the temperature (cools it) of the hot air. The process forms the moisture on the coil which is then pushed outside through a drain line. However, if your AC is leaking water into your house, here are a few things that can cause leakage.
– Condensate drain line is blocked with sludge, dirt, or dust.
– Your drain pan got damaged.
– Condensate pump which throws the water outside is damaged.
– Air filter is filled with dirt which may block the airflow.
– Similarly, low refrigerant can cause the moisture to freeze over the evaporator coil and block the airflow.
So, there are several types of air conditioners that we covered here. They are designed to address various consumer needs. Some of them suit large businesses and are quite expensive while others are economical, have less setup and electricity cost, and can be ideal for your home or an apartment. You can simply go through our guide to choose the best option for your needs.